National funding programme to boost coding skills

More than 10,500 children across Scotland are set to benefit from a new £250,000 digital skills funding programme.

Twelve extracurricular projects across the country have been awarded between £715 and £48,000 to offer young people the chance to develop coding, computing and creative media skills.

Raspberry Pi-powered wildlife cameras

One of the projects funded will see school pupils learn how to code on Raspberry Pi computers, which will then power wildlife cameras; another will see the teaching of digital skills inspired by the crime TV show CSI.

The government cash has been focused especially on hard to reach groups including rural and disadvantaged communities, as well as to encourage more girls to get into tech.

‘The next generation of digital makers’

“Our young people are avid consumers of technology but it’s important that we inspire them to take computing science seriously and have the chance to become the next generation of digital makers,” said Claire Gillespie, key sector manager for ICT and Digital Skills at Skills Development Scotland, which administers the fund.

She added: “Hands on extracurricular activities are an excellent way to get young people excited about digital technology and the difference people can make when they have specialist skills. Every single young person in Scotland should have access to activities of this kind and this joined up approach to funding is an important step towards achieving that goal.”

Closing the digital skills gap

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, said: “The Scottish Government is committed to closing the digital skills gap faced by all sectors across the economy and investing in the digital skills of our young people is crucial to achieving this ambition.

“It’s important that we encourage our children and young people to develop their digital skills from a young age. Digital Xtra is giving thousands of young people opportunities to strengthen their skills in this area through their engagement in a range of innovative projects.”

Launched in May, Digital Xtra has been administered by Skills Development Scotland and developed in partnership by SDS, ScotlandIS, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and Education Scotland.

Projects that will benefit

The following projects are among those that will benefit from the fund, which is hoped to become an annual programme.

Tweety Pi, a partnership between SCDI and BT that will bring the natural and digital worlds together with wildlife watching cameras powered by Raspberry Pi computers that have been coded by students. It will be open to 900 pupils in Dumfries & Galloway, Moray, and Orkney.

Scottish Libraries and Information Council and Code Club have been awarded funding for a joint project that will train library staff to deliver 12 week coding clubs to 9-11 year olds across 27 of Scotland’s 32 library services. Midlothian Council also received funding to support coding clubs in libraries.

Edinburgh College and Oracle have partnered for CSI Forensic Investigation, a four week project inspired by the popular CSI television series. Participants aged 12-16 will learn a variety of digital skills including video production and coding. In the final week they will be given starter information for a crime and use a variety of digital tools and techniques to build a case against one of the subjects.

Digital Xtra also made an award to Queens Cross Housing Association and Glasgow Kelvin College for a joint initiative to engage young people from North Glasgow with Minecraft and Raspberry Pi coding workshops hosted at the city’s MAKLab innovation facility. A pop up event for 100 young people and their families will complement the workshops.

Angus Young Engineers from Forfar Academy will use its funding to roll out an after school computing club for secondary pupils and pupils from its cluster primary schools in Angus. It will be delivered with involvement from FIRST Lego League, the international competition that challenges school pupils to create scientific solutions to real world problems.

Funding will also allow Apps for Good to extend the reach of its extracurricular work with schools across Scotland. It will train teachers to deliver coding courses and teach pupils to design and develop mobile, web and social apps that solve problems young people care about.

The other successful applicants are: Inverness College UHI; Edinburgh International Science Festival; The Prince’s Trust; Ian Findlay Design and Troqueer Primary School; and Rampaging Chariots Guild.

The fund received 95 applications through the Public Contracts Scotland framework.

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