Barefoot is celebrating the first year of its collaboration working in Northern Ireland with Ciena, by welcoming teachers, students and industry leaders to an event in Belfast on Tuesday.

Primary school teachers in Northern Ireland have benefited from the initiative which provides free training workshops and resources – thanks to support from Ciena, a global networking systems, services and software company.

Ciena’s support has enabled Barefoot to radically expand its reach in NI and enable the appointment of a dedicated coordinator for the program.

Pupils showcasing the programme’s achievements

The event at the W5 Life MS Dream Space in Belfast will provide an opportunity to highlight and celebrate Barefoot’s work supported by Ciena. A new set of Barefoot Irish Language resources will be launched at the event to support Irish language schools as they deliver computing skills to students.

The agenda includes talks by Barefoot programme leads, Ciena sponsors, and a keynote presentation by Simon Peyton Jones, Chair of Computing at School. Attendees will also hear from Ciena volunteers who delivered Barefoot workshops and were interviewed by local pupils to share their experiences.

The event will be attended by educational organisations, industry representatives, teachers, pupils, and local schoolteachers. Pupils will also provide a "pupil showcase" of the impact of the programme in local classrooms.

Aiming to reach all schools in Northern Ireland

In addition to celebrating the past year's achievements, the event will also serve as a "call to action" for attendees to help the programme as it continues to reach new schools throughout 2023 – with the aim of reaching all Northern Irish schools.

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Dr Irene Bell, Chair of Computing at School, Northern Ireland said, “As the position of computational thinking and computing gains further importance in the Northern Ireland Primary Curriculum, the Barefoot resources and free professional development for teachers in both computational thinking and computing is of crucial importance.

“Knowing that Ciena is there supporting this work ensures that schools in Northern Ireland have this outstanding go-to resource for their pupils. We are indebted to Ciena and their staff for their continued commitment to this project and assure them of the impact they are making to the future generations of digital citizens and the software industry.”

Making a difference in the community

Prof Simon Peyton Jones said:

“The CAS Barefoot programme aims to take all schoolchildren on a rich, exciting computing journey, artists as well as scientists, and girls as well as boys. That's why Barefoot is focused on primary school, and is so strongly cross-curricular. Ciena's support has been instrumental in making Barefoot thrive in Northern Ireland, a great example of a global company making a deep local impact in a particular community.”

Alison Wilson, Vice President of Fulfillment Operations at Ciena, said:

“Making a difference in our local communities has always been a priority for Ciena. It is amazing to see the work that the Barefoot programme has done to support the students’ educational journeys in just one year’s time. We are thrilled to continue working with the BCS team to expand digital learning and bridge the digital divide in Northern Ireland.”

Barefoot is run by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT and Computing At School. Since its launch in 2014, Barefoot has reached over 90,000 primary teachers across the UK (including teachers in NI) with its free workshops and resources.