Innovative Computing Science resource to reach all NI primary schools

6 December 2016

The Minister for the Department of Education, Peter Weir MLA, today launched a new programme to help Northern Ireland primary school teachers bring computer science to life in the classroom.

The Barefoot Computing Programme was established in 2014 with the original aim of helping primary school teachers in England get ready for the computer science element of a new computing curriculum. It was originally funded by the DfE and run by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT in partnership with BT and CAS.

BT took over the lead and funding for the programme in 2015, with the continued support of BCS and CAS, and has been working to enable the resources and workshops to be available to all primary school teachers throughout the UK.

The resources have been tailored to the Northern Ireland curriculum by Dr Irene Bell, Head of STEM at Stranmillis University College (Chairman of CAS NI).

The free resource, which is available to all primary schools in Northern Ireland, aims to equip teachers with the confidence, knowledge, skills and assets to teach computer science to pupils from 5-11 years old including SEN. Pupils use computational thinking in a fun and accessible way and the skills they develop can be used across the curriculum to help improve their maths, science and literacy.

The Barefoot Computing downloadable resources and lesson plans are available for use by over 8000 teachers in Northern Ireland, who may not have specialist computing knowledge, to help them educate almost 170,000 primary school pupils in computer science.

Resources, which have been tailored to the Northern Ireland curriculum, focus on concepts such as algorithms, abstraction, programming and data structures and provide ideas on how they can be used in the learning environment. Key content has also been translated into Irish.

Speaking at the launch of Barefoot Computing at Fane Street Primary School in Belfast, Minister Peter Weir MLA, said: “I am pleased to launch the Barefoot Computing Programme, which is an excellent tool for teachers delivering computer science classes to their pupils. In today’s digital world, where business and social engagements are often conducted online, it is of paramount importance that young people learn computing skills from an early age so that they are equipped with the necessary tools needed to progress in our increasingly digitised world.”

The Barefoot Computing programme has also tailored resources for Scottish, English and Welsh primary schools, supporting their specific curriculum requirements.

Mairead Meyer, Managing Director of Networks at BT in Northern Ireland, added: “Our children grow up surrounded by technology but often they do not know how it all works, nor do they fully appreciate how it will shape their lives.

“The Barefoot Computing programme is an excellent resource to help teachers communicate computer science to children in a fun and engaging way, whilst providing step by step resources and workshops to give teachers of all tech abilities the confidence to teach these skills to their classes.

“This resource is part of BT’s long-term commitment to help build a culture of tech literacy and to use the power of communications to make a better world. As our first goal, BT aims to reach five million children by 2020. We are looking forward to seeing the programme take shape in Northern Ireland and having a real impact in our primary schools.”

Fane Street Primary School principal, Hilary Cunningham, whose pupils have been benefiting from the programme, added: “Barefoot Computing is an excellent resource that my teachers are currently using to teach computer science to our young pupils in a way that is exciting and interactive.

“Not only do pupils learn vital computer skills as well as computational thinking from a young age but the resources are also excellent in helping our teachers to understand computer science and to have the confidence to educate our pupils in this increasingly vital subject.”

The free, simple-to-use resources and lesson plans can be easily shown to teachers in a workshop hosted in school and delivered by a Barefoot volunteer, including specially trained BT volunteers. To download resources and request a workshop, teachers can register at http://barefootcas.org.uk/ 

There are three main aspects of the Barefoot Computing Programme:

  • Exemplar teaching activities: Created by a team of practising computing teachers, these high quality, cross-curricular activities help primary teachers to deliver the computing curriculum in engaging and practical ways.
  • Teach yourself concepts: These resources help primary teachers on their journey towards becoming excellent computing teachers by improving their subject knowledge and understanding. Giving clear definitions, examples and progression across all primary school age and ability ranges, the resources help teachers deepen their own understanding of computational thinking and computer science topics.
  • Barefoot Workshops: The aim is to enable the resources and workshops to be available throughout the UK. These free CPD sessions are run by volunteer experts and introduce teachers to the Barefoot computing resources. Teachers can arrange for a Barefoot Workshop to be help at their school and benefit from great resources and support.

Barefoot Computing Programme is part of BT’s long-term commitment to help build a culture of tech literacy and use the power of communications to make a better world. As its first goal, BT aims to reach five million children by 2020. Find out more at www.bt.com/techliteracy

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