Helping kids recode their lives

Discover how one school is using coding to help children grow.

What was your favourite class at school? Trying to remember if you liked geography or work out if PE counts? Chances are you’re not familiar with current curriculums.

Now, instead of traditional subjects, coding would top that list for many students. A relatively recent addition at most schools, it’s a subject that allows students to develop a new core skill while flexing their creativity.

And, contrary to what you might think, it’s not just about lines of ones, zeros or those squiggly brackets you can never find on your keyboard.

Swift Playgrounds helps teach kids how to code in fun, playful ways.

“By the time students are in Years 5 and 6 they’re looking at app design and coding drones,” Claire Jones, deputy headteacher at Layton Primary School in Blackpool, tells us.

As well as programming their own drone-based flight paths, Layton Primary’s coding classes have students learn to command rolling Sphero robots and bring their latest LEGO creations to life. And it’s a journey that starts as soon as they join the school aged four.

“When pupils start with us, we do a lot of looking at patterns. At the beginning it’s about using a lot of the simple language without actually saying, right we’re coding. As we move up to Year 1, which is five and six years old, we’ve started introducing some basic Swift rhythms as well.”

Students at Layton Primary School start learning coding techniques as young as four.
By the time students are in Years 5 and 6 they’re looking at app design and coding drones.

Reversing the dynamic, student iLeaders actually teach the teachers.

From here, Swift Playgrounds is Layton Primary’s core coding app, helping take pupils through step-by-step learning processes, using engaging cartoon levels to build up the skills needed to create their own app before offering them the tools to do just that.

According to Jones, however, the benefits of coding are far broader than learning the core skill itself. Especially in areas where pupils aren’t always given the opportunity to excel.

“Where we are in Blackpool, it’s one of the most deprived areas in the country,” Jones explains. “It’s always in the news for the wrong reasons such as the lowest rate of GCSE results, the lowest life expectancy, the highest rate of teenage pregnancy.”

“For our pupils, they tend to come in below where they should be for age expectations, but when they leave at the end of Year 6, they’re above age expectations. A lot of that comes from coding.”

Students learn how to use code to control rolling robots and airborne drones.

On top of new skills, Jones has seen coding reward children with new confidence. Something the school is encouraging through its iLeader programme. Shaking up the school dynamic, this allows select pupils to teach both students and teachers alike about elements of coding they have been studying.

“Our iLeaders now run lunchtime clubs and coding clubs,” Jones explains. “They use Sphero Edu, host green screen clubs and run app clubs. They now run staff meetings and host speed share sessions where you can drop in and out and they will teach you something new.”

“Their role has become really important and has given the children a voice in school. Some of the teachers actually feel safer learning from the children.”

When you’re writing code you learn resilience and problem solving which are lifelong skills.

Claire Jones believes learning to code has benefits out of the classroom as well as within.

Beyond empowering the students, coding at Layton Primary is helping create a solid basis from which the students can grow, both academically and personally.

“Coding encourages students to think a lot about problem solving, collaborating and having that patience,” says Jones. “It’s developing their thinking skills as well and they can use that across the curriculum.”

“When you’re writing code you learn resilience and problem solving which are lifelong skills. Our vision is about developing these independent lifelong learners which coding fits in to.”

Keen to help your little ones learn to code? Why not learn together.

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