Spectacular results for Digital Schoolhouse in Warwickshire

Thousands of primary school children across Warwickshire are enjoying a head start in digital skills thanks to the groundbreaking Digital Schoolhouse programme.

Digital Schoolhouse is running in four secondary schools in the county – Campion School, Kineton High School, The Coleshill School and King Edward VI School, Stratford – and there is scope for more to join.

The programme, delivered by the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE), is backed Warwickshire County Council along with industry leaders PlayStation, Sega and Ubisoft.

It offers computing and digital skills training to secondary school teachers which they then pass on to local primary school staff and children. The focus is very much on fun-based learning with a range of inventive ways to engage youngsters in the subject.

Hannah and Isabella (aged 9) from The Willows C of E Primary School, testing their coding skills during a robotics workshop, at King Edward VI School, Stratford.

The results have been spectacular with more than 90 per cent of primary school children in the programme in Warwickshire left feeling more confident about computing and programming.

Almost 3,000 children and more than 200 teachers in 32 schools across the county have benefited in the last academic year from the programme which also serves to strengthen links between secondary and primary schools.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Leader of Warwickshire County Council said: “Digital Schoolhouse uses play-based learning to engage the next generation of pupils and teachers in the digital skills that are so vital for the continued growth of our economy. We are delighted to support this impressive initiative, and enable four Warwickshire schools to become digital hubs in this project. We hope many more of our schools will get involved.”

Richard Barfoot, head of computer science at King Edward VI School, Stratford, said: “We get very positive feedback from the primary schools that come – they tend to come over and over again. The long-term aim is to get children thinking about computing careers and, even at this early age, show them the range of things there is to be interested in and eventually the range of career options when they move up to secondary school.

“The whole ethos of Digital Schoolhouse is computing with a bit of play. We want children to realise that it is not a dry subject. There is a lot of play and experimentation involved. We sometimes start off with a ‘magic trick’ where the kids work out that, as long as they follow the steps in the trick, the magic works. They don’t necessarily need to understand how it works at first, but they understand the process behind it.”

Richard Sandle-Keynes, a Year Five teacher at The Willows Primary School, said: “Every time we come to KES the children are really engaged by what they see and hear. We are really lucky to have this on our doorstep.

“Children now are much more interested in how computers work and what they can do and Digital Schoolhouse helps them develop so much more quickly. They can only help them become equipped for those careers, which is brilliant particularly in Warwickshire where the digital sector is so strong.

“It is a very creative programme. From one session we had children writing an algorithm for making a jam sandwich. You can’t just say ‘put the jam on the bread’ because then you put a jar of jam on a loaf of bread and it doesn’t work, so they have to be really specific which feeds into their writing skills and involves an element of Maths.

“It feeds across the curricular. For example, if they know how to publish information to a website, then they know that, if they go to a website they can’t necessarily trust what’s on there because it could have come from somebody like them just wanting to put up whatever they wanted. So they start understanding what is behind computers and become more savvy and safer on line.”

Warwickshire County Council’s foresight in supporting Digital Schoolhouse has been richly rewarded with thousands of children receiving a springboard towards careers which will help the county retain its place as a leader in the Digital Creative Sector.

The county would also welcome involvement of businesses from the county’s digital sector. Any who would like to be involved are asked to contact stacyoconnor@warwickshire.gov.uk.

* If you would like your school to join the Digital Schoolhouse programme please contact: http://www.digitalschoolhouse.org.uk/articles/2019/01/applications-have-opened