More than forty per cent of Northern Ireland Primary Schools have signed up to an initiative to boost tech literacy in the classroom in its first year. The Barefoot Computing Project works with teachers to help them develop the confidence, knowledge and skills they need to teach computer science.
The Barefoot programme is led by BT in Northern Ireland and supported by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, and CAS – Computing at School. It provides free workshops and classroom resources, which have been designed by teachers and tailored to meet the needs of the NI curriculum.
In the year since its launch, the programme has reached 42% of Northern Ireland Primary Schools. Volunteers have delivered over 100 free workshops to more than 1,000 teachers – reaching around 31,000 NI school children. Many more schools have also registered to use Barefoot’s online resources, helping many more pupils make the most of lessons with a computing element.
Paddy Hardy is the Principal of St Mary’s Aghlisnafin Primary School in Castlewellan, which registered with the Barefoot programme last summer. He says: “The resources and lesson plans are excellent because they’ve clearly been designed by teachers with experience in the classroom.
“The in-school training for staff has allowed us to introduce problem-solving into every class, not just maths, because tech literacy is now a fundamental building block of children’s education.
“We have always encouraged our P7 pupils to be ‘reading buddies’ for some of the P1 children. Now we’ve got the older children helping the younger ones as their ICT buddies. That’s thanks to the Barefoot progamme.”
Barefoot is part of BT’s tech literacy ambition and forms part of the company’s long-term commitment to reach five million young people in the UK by 2020. Acting Managing Director of BT’s Northern Ireland Networks division, Garret Kavanagh, says: “We’ve made significant progress since the Barefoot programme was launched in Northern Ireland just over a year ago. It’s great to see so many local Primary Schools accessing the free resources to boost computing confidence in the classroom.
“We’re living in an increasingly digital world and tech literacy is now as important as reading and writing. That’s why BT wants to encourage more schools in Northern Ireland to sign up to Barefoot.”
BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, recently held a free training session for Barefoot volunteers at Stranmillis University College. Rachel McKane, Chair of BCS NI, says: “Our volunteers are trained to deliver the Barefoot resources to teachers in Primary Schools. They go into schools to talk to teachers about what we have to offer and work through some examples. They show that computational thinking is cross curricular and that, through practical activities, children can learn how to tackle challenges and solve problems through concepts such as abstraction, decomposition, algorithm, pattern, evaluation and logical thinking.”
Getting involved with the Barefoot programme is easy and free. To find out more, visit https://barefootcas.org.uk .