Pupils, teachers, industry leaders and education policy-makers, came together in Belfast last week to celebrate a year of Barefoot and Ciena’s collaboration – and their support for our vision to ensure all children in Northern Ireland thrive in a digital world.

Experts from industry, universities and further education bodies, as well as children from primary schools joined us at the event at W5 Life MS Dream Space in Belfast on Tuesday 14 March.

Representatives from Stranmillis, Queen’s and Ulster Universities; the Education Authority and the computing curriculum body CCEA attended; along with The Software Alliance, which provides a voice to the NI software industry.

St. Mary's University College and An tÁisaonad launched a new set of Barefoot Irish Language resources to support Irish language schools to deliver computing skills to their students.

Prof Simon Peyton Jones, Chair of Computing at School, which is supported by BCS, delivered a fascinating talk, “From Rock Paper Scissors to ChatGPT,” uncovering what’s really going on in the ‘magic box’ that is machine learning and AI.

Benefits of volunteering

Ciena’s volunteers on the Barefoot programme were quizzed by students from Taughmonagh Primary School and Ballynahinch Primary Schools. Ciena’s team shared with them how volunteering with Barefoot was great fun and how they had also benefited from sharing their knowledge and passion with others.

Pupils from Taughmonagh and Ballynahinch also showcased the computing projects they had created using Barefoot lessons and activities.

Bringing people together for positive change

Julia Adamson, Managing Director of Education and Public Benefit at BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT travelled to Belfast for the event.

For you

Be part of something bigger, join BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

She said; “In true BCS style, we brought together this wide group of stakeholders with common goals and we’re excited about the opportunities ahead to work as a coalition to bring about positive change.

“It was amazing to see so many people coming together, whether that’s teachers, students, employers or those who shape policy, on a shared mission to ensure every learner in Northern Ireland is equipped with the skills to thrive in the digital world.”

An outstanding programme

Dr Irene Bell, Chair of Computing at School, Northern Ireland, said;
“The outstanding programme of professional development and resources supported by Ciena continues to grow from strength to strength and is having a major impact on the teachers and pupils in schools in Northern Ireland. The first anniversary event was a tribute to all those who are dedicated to furthering the computing journey of our schools and children and provided the energy and enthusiasm in taking the next steps in this amazing educational journey of bringing the Barefoot programme into our schools.”

Alison Wilson, Vice President of Fulfillment Operations at Ciena, noted, “Together, we have helped more than 27,000 pupils by providing trainings, workshops and other resources to expand their digital skills. Working with and supporting our local schools has been an amazing experience and we are thrilled to see what the next year brings.”