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Renfrewshire schools coding clubs get a digital boost from BT

Press Release   •   Mar 29, 2018 10:00 BST

Pupils at Glennifer High School in Paisley enjoy an after-school session at their new coding club.

Coding clubs have been launched in more Renfrewshire schools in a bid to interest local pupils in computing careers – and help stem Scotland’s digital skills gap.

West College Scotland has scooped a BT-supported grant from digital skills charity Digital Xtra Fund to extend its coding club initiative in Renfrewshire high schools.

BT Scotland’s contribution to the Fund, which was allocated for activities in the Glasgow City Region, means the number of local secondary schools to benefit from the initiative has doubled from three to six.

The weekly after-school sessions for pupils in first and second year at Gryffe High School in Houston and Paisley’sGleniffer High School and St Andrews Academy started this term, targeting an equal mix of male and female pupils.

The coding clubs were set up, in partnership with Renfrewshire Council, to increase the number of young people learning high-level digital skills and, in particular, promote coding skills to girls and offer opportunities in deprived communities in Renfrewshire. The initial three schools to participate were St Benedict’s, Paisley Grammar and Renfrew High.

Senior staff from the college’s computing faculty are overseeing the operation of the new clubs, working with student STEM* ambassadors who run them week-to-week.

The college is also providing development sessions for teachers, to equip them with digital skills and knowledge to sustain the clubs in the future.

College principal and chief executive Audrey Cumberford said: “New and emerging technologies are transforming the workplace and the skills people will need for the jobs of tomorrow.

“At West College Scotland our ambition is to be a high performing digital college. We recognise the vital role we play in supporting and developing the digital skills of the young people in our region. We are proud of the partnership with our local schools, Renfrewshire Council, BT Scotland and Digital Xtra Fund.”

The coding clubs deliver activities in a fun and informal way to engage secondary-age pupils and build their digital skills. Sessions focus on the creative use of digital tools, with pupils creating games, graphics and sounds, as well as covering emerging technologies such as virtual reality.

Digital Xtra Fund supports activities which inspire young people to understand and create with digital technologies, not just how to use them. It aims to foster the next generation of digital makers, teach young people the skills they will need for the workplace of the future, and help boost Scotland’s economy.

BT Scotland has supported Digital Xtra Fund since its launch and has contributed funding to back digital projects, such as this one, which contribute to its aims.

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “BT is right behind Digital Xtra Fund because we believe every young Scot needs to learn digital skills as a basic along with reading and writing. We’re delighted to renew our support for 2018/19.

The West College Scotland coding clubs engage young people in a fun and informal way and it’s great that more S1 and 2 pupils are getting the chance to learn skills which could potentially lead to a career in digital technology.

“It’s vital that industry works with educators and the wider public sector to tackle the digital skills shortage and prepare young people for the future world of work.”

Kraig Brown, partnerships and development manager at Digital Xtra Fund, said: “It’s fantastic that BT Scotland is partnering with Digital Xtra Fund to support projects like West College Scotland’s coding clubs. We’re bringing together organisations to provide a joined-up, sustainable approach to supporting a range of digital skills activities across Scotland.”

ENDS

*STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths.

Notes to editors:

Digital Xtra Fund is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SC047272).

It awards grants of up to £5000 to projects which teach concepts like computational thinking, coding, digital creativity, and data science in a fun and inspiring environment. In 2016, Digital Xtra Fund supported 22 projects across Scotland, engaging 15,000 young people, with more projects benefiting during 2017. Digital Xtra Fund is now establishing a 2018/19 funding round and is looking to partner with likeminded individuals, businesses, and organisations who are also keen to increase the availability of extracurricular computing activities for young people across Scotland.

BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. Its support for Digital Xtra Fund – which has just been renewed for 2018/19 – forms part of BT’s long-term commitment to help build a culture of tech literacy for the UK, reaching five million young people by 2020.


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