20 Dec 2021

Southmuir Primary School is building a STEM workforce of the future thanks to its coding club for girls

Digital Xtra Fund is helping schools and organisations across the country create extracurricular clubs where children and young people can learn the importance and context of digital skills by using tech in informal and creative ways. One such initiative is a STEM club at Southmuir Primary School, a small, rural school in Kirriemuir, Angus, set up exclusively for 32 girls to learn all about coding, with a view to pursuing a career in STEM

Southmuir Primary School STEM ClubThe club aims to provide an engaging way for girls to learn to code, with a view to pursuing a career in Science, Technology, England and Maths (STEM). Run by Karen-Ruth Phillips, PT Raising Attainment, it has been funded by Digital Xtra Fund, whose backers include IT and business consulting services firm CGI. CGI’s Kayleigh Gall was also among those to provide a Career Insight talk this term, focusing on her role as a cyber security consultant as well as Laura Molnar of 4J Studios, who gave a talk on game design.

The club has been a massive hit since it was set up thanks to the £5,000 grant provided by the Fund. Above all, it has provided girls from P4 to P7 – who otherwise might not have encountered such an opportunity – the chance to get hands-on with tech and enjoy learning to code. Participants can also earn digital badges and certificates for completing different Code.org courses and work towards their Wonder Workshop Dash Puzzles – linked to robots called Dash and Dot also bought for the club thanks to the grant award. These robots have been especially appreciated by the girls and have resulted in a very high percentage of engagement at the club, which meets once a week on a Wednesday.

Southmuir Primary School STEM ClubGirls from Club recently put their STEM Club robots Dash and Dot through their paces at a special Strictly Come Dashing Christmas Competition, as ‘judges’ Maha Abhishek, Digital Xtra Fund Community & Grants Officer, and Kayleigh Gall of CGI looked on. The 32 youngsters enjoyed their last session of the club before the Christmas break by coding special dances for the robots to perform to festive music. They also received the digital badges and certificates they’ve earned thus far.

The club has regularly surveyed the girls on how they enjoyed their work, and whether it had changed their attitudes towards a future STEM career. Universally, as the weeks went by, they saw 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 also 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.

Southmuir Primary School STEM ClubKaren-Ruth Phillips said: “The club has fostered a 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 as well. 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. Karen-Ruth and the school have given the girls the opportunity to learn so much in a fun, engaging and creative way. They have given their students a 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.”

Southmuir Primary School STEM ClubLyndsey Teaz, Vice President and Scotland Business Unit Leader (Interim), said: “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 School 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.”

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