Coding awards celebrate hundreds of NI students

Almost 600 primary and secondary school pupils from across Northern Ireland have received awards at a ceremony in Belfast after completing innovative computer coding programmes. 

The event marked the end of the first term for PwC NI’s Hive Academy, a technology outreach initiative which has reached over 7000 children in Northern Ireland and more than 500 teachers since it began in 2017.

Described as ‘invaluable’ by teachers who have participated in the programme, the Hive Academy provides free classes for pupils either in schools or the innovative Google Lab in the firm’s Belfast office. 

Students learned the fundamentals of coding through a variety of both ‘plugged’ and ‘unplugged’ activities and were introduced to cloud-based platforms used in the industry. Teachers also received training within the programme through a number of digital upskilling courses and were provided with electronic resources designed to help them teach the course on their own in the future. 

The Hive Academy has been pioneered by Narelle Allen, a former university professor who heads up PwC NI’s schools outreach programme. Narelle commented:

“It’s fantastic to work with hundreds of teachers who are genuinely committed to invest in their digital upskilling, and to inspire their students. As a firm, we’re proud to support Belfast’s growing reputation as a global digital hub which has the potential to be transformational for the whole region. 

“Ensuring young people understand and feel able to grasp the opportunities offered by the technology sector in Northern Ireland is crucial. This isn’t something that society can expect schools on their own to deliver and the power of collaboration with businesses like ours is evident through the success of the students who we’re celebrating today.”

The awards ceremony saw students from seven primary schools and two secondary schools take to the stage to present what they have learned to an audience at the Hilton Hotel.

Students from Campbell College studied the Python KS3 course. Margaret Debaddi is its Head of Digital Technology and Computing:

“The Hive Academy programme has proven invaluable to both myself and my students. 

Coding programmes offered in conjunction with industry are necessary if pupils and teachers are to continue in the ever-changing industry we are hoping to feed our students into. 

“Without such programmes, the concern would be that the skills set required in the industry will continue to outstrip the skills being delivered in the classroom. Pupils and teachers both can benefit from ongoing partnerships and help redress the current imbalance between skills availability and requirements.”

Jayne Uí Néill, primary teacher in Gaelscoil Ui Neill, Coalisland said:

“PwC is providing an invaluable programme for Primary Schools. Our children have been exposed to programming at a level that otherwise would not have been available to them. 

“We have been delighted to utilise the resources and expertise provided by PwC and have found the team to be a great support in developing the children's coding skills as well as their Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities. It is amazing to see how quickly the children have picked up new concepts and progressed through the well paced activities provided each week.”

Dominica Dolan is Head of ICT at St Joseph’s in Donaghmore and said:

“This programme provides a real foundation for KS3 students moving into GCSE Programming but also consolidates the learning required to complete the Year 12 coursework which involves coding a quiz-type program.

“It provides informative and innovative ways to deliver coding which meets the needs of all types of students, whether logical thinkers or creative dreamers. It’s also a valuable resource to teachers who may not have coded since they left college.

“Consistently we are told that there is a huge demand for IT personnel in Northern Ireland but in recent years, the uptake among pupils has dropped significantly. By supporting them at an earlier age, we can remove some of the barriers to learning  perceived difficulty particularly when targeting girls.”

 

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