Angus primary inspires future STEM workforce with coding club for girls
Girls at a rural Angus primary school are being inspired to pursue careers in technology thanks to a club designed to make coding fun.
With a £5,000 grant from the Digital Xtra Fund – a charity which helps to drive digital skills for youngsters in Scotland – Southmuir Primary School has launched a group to engage girls in the male-dominated sphere of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The club has been a “massive hit” since it was set up last year, providing 32 girls from P4 to P7 with the opportunity to learn how to code.
The pupils receive digital badges and certificates which they earn for completing different levels of the coding course.
They also work with robots called Dash and Dot, which have been credited with resulting in a very high percentage of engagement at the club.
Surveys conducted by organisers show that, among participants, there has been an increase in coding skills confidence, an enjoyment of coding, and requests to continue coding activities in class time.
The brother of one girl in the club was reportedly so envious of his sister’s enthusiasm for coding he and his friends requested the school to set up a boys’ equivalent club, which has now been set up, with girls from the STEM Club supporting it.
The club has also raised awareness of digital jobs through Careers Insights – an innovative integrated learning platform for digital work experience. Laura Molnar of Dundee-based video games developer 4J Studios, spoke with the girls about her work in creating a wide range of games.
And Kayleigh Gall, a young cybersecurity consultant from IT and business consulting services company CGI Glasgow, delivered a virtual talk on the jobs available in cybersecurity, including ethical hacker roles, and the degrees that are on offer in universities.
Several of the Southmuir girls say they are now considering a tech career.
The group is run by Karen-Ruth Phillips, PT raising attainment at Southmuir Primary, alongside regular inputs from other staff and student teachers.
Phillips said: “The club has fostered a really fun way of learning coding and STEM. Engagement levels have been really high and the girls have not only enjoyed it themselves, they have even got their parents looking into additional coding and STEM activities for the girls. Our thanks go to the Digital Xtra Fund for their support, as well as CGI and Kayleigh for her Career Insight talk.”
Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s partnerships and development manager, said: “Our goal is for every young person in Scotland to have access to innovative and digitally creative activities, regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. This goal has been encapsulated perfectly by the excellent STEM club at Southmuir.
“Mrs Phillips and the school have given the girls the opportunity to learn so much in a fun, engaging and creative way. They have given their pupils the chance to learn about the vast opportunities with tech. With this year’s grant awards totalling £100,000, Digital Xtra Fund expects around 7,250 young people in Scotland will be given the chance to learn fundamental digital skills; many of whom would not have had an opportunity otherwise.”
Digital Xtra Fund is backed by funders including CGI, AWS, Baillie Gifford, JP Morgan, and Chroma Ventures.
Lyndsey Teaz, vice president and interim Scotland business unit leader, CGI, added: “We are not only delighted to maintain our strong support for Digital Xtra Fund, but also provide through Kayleigh Gall the opportunity for the girls of Southmuir Primary to learn all about what it is like working in the wonderful world of technology and STEM.
“CGI believes passionately in supporting the communities in which we live and work and it has never been more important to encourage talent and innovation in our sector. It is tremendous to see so many young people being helped on their journey and we look forward to seeing the results over the coming months and years.”