12 Mar 2019

BT-sponsored Barefoot Computing provides boost for computing lessons in Scottish schools

A programme to help teachers bring computer science to life in the classroom has already reached more than half of Scotland’s primary schools, according to new figures.

Latest numbers show that teachers from 69 per cent of primary schools in Scotland – a total of more than 6,700 teachers so far – have registered to use the BT-sponsored Barefoot Computing programme, which offers free, classroom-ready teaching resources.

Launched in 2017 in Scotland, the lessons are available to all primary schools and aim to help pupils aged between five and 11 years old to develop basic computing skills and computational thinking across all subjects. The free downloadable resources and materials have been tailored to the Scottish curriculum and have been backed by the Scottish Government. They are designed to help primary school teachers across Scotland, some of whom may not have specialist computing knowledge. The resources, available in English and Gaelic, promote problem-solving, creativity and collaboration among pupils. Barefoot volunteers, including BT employees, have now delivered more than 500 free workshops for teachers across Scotland to introduce them to the resources.

Carol Farquhar, principal teacher at Houston Primary School, said: “We have been pleased to be part of the Barefoot initiative. It’s been a great way to get the pupils further excited and inspired about computing and developing their digital skills.

“Technology and digital skills are an important part of the Curriculum for Excellence and bringing these ideas into our teaching has really helped to engage the children. The Barefoot resources are helpful and accessible.”

Alan Armstrong, Strategic Director at Education Scotland, said: “I’d like to thank everyone involved in the BT tech literacy programme for working with us on this journey as we raise standards in our transformational curriculum.

“Digital skills are at the heart of our Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland, because it’s crucial our learners have the tools and capabilities they need to thrive in an increasingly digital world. I look forward to continuing to work with BT to make these attractive and supportive resources accessible to all schools in Scotland.”

Jane Wood, BT Group UK nations and regions director, said: “I’m incredibly proud of how many teachers and children have been involved in the Barefoot programme and benefitted from the fantastic resources available.

“Increasingly, most jobs rely on people having digital skills. By 2022 the UK will need an additional 500,000 workers in digital industries, which is three times the number of computer science graduates the UK has produced in the last 10 years. The Barefoot resources not only deliver important tech skills, but also life skills.

“Well done to all the teachers, the Barefoot team and of course to the thousands of pupils from across Scotland who have made the programme the success it is today. We live in a world powered by technology. Let’s make sure the next generation can thrive in it and work together to get Barefoot to all of the 400,000 primary-aged children in Scotland, as fast as possible.”

Alongside the release of these figures, a new Barefoot website has also been launched which provides even more materials for teachers. Typical support consists of tasks designed to improve pupils’ understanding of concepts like algorithms in a way that improves their ability to think logically and sequentially but creatively. The website also includes new support which helps educate pupils on using the internet safely and what ‘consent’ means in terms of controlling their personal information and identity.

Teachers and parents can find more information and get the free resources at https://barefootcomputing.org

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22 Feb 2019

Polly Purvis OBE to retire as CEO of ScotlandIS

Facebook icon-whiteThe board of ScotlandIS, the membership and cluster management organisation for Scotland’s digital technologies industry, has announced that its CEO, Polly Purvis, is retiring this year. Polly also played an integral part in the formation of Digital Xtra Fund and has sat on the Charity’s Board since its inception in 2017.

Polly has been with ScotlandIS since its inception in 2000, and prior to that with the Scottish Software Federation from 1998. She has been CEO for six years and during that time has led the organisation to some great industry-wide successes. Polly will remain in post until a new CEO is appointed to ensure an orderly transition and will officially hand over to the new CEO at ScotSoft 2019.

The Board has also announced Karen Meechan has been promoted to chief operating officer, providing additional continuity to the membership and focussing on the continued growth of the organisation. Frances Sneddon, chair of ScotlandIS and CTO of SIMUL8 Corporation will work with Karen, Polly and the new CEO to build on the legacy that Polly has left. Between them, Karen and Frances have more than 40 years experience in the technology sector and more than 25 years helping to run ScotlandIS in an operational and board capacity.

Polly leaves both ScotlandIS, and the Scottish digital technology industry, in excellent shape.

Most recently, she helped secure support for ScotlandIS from Scottish Enterprise to develop industry clusters in data and cyber security, evolving ScotlandIS into a combined cluster management organisation and membership body.

Polly lobbied for the creation of the Skills Investment Plan (published in 2014); a strategy developed to create a strong and continuing supply of skills for the tech sector, underlining its crucial importance to the Scottish economy. Through a partnership between industry, SDS, SFC and other skills organisations the investment plan is creating a strong skills infrastructure to support future growth. Initiatives including CodeClan, Digital Xtra Fund, Digital Skills Partnership and the Digital Schools Programme have come out of the Skills Investment Plan and further work is underway addressing subjects as varied as gender balance in the industry and recruiting more computing teachers.

The formation of CodeClan, Scotland’s first and only SQA accredited digital skills academy, was spearheaded by Polly; she recognised an opportunity for career changers and returners to develop technology skills to help fill the increasing number of job vacancies in the sector and established CodeClan to meet this need. CodeClan is now producing over 400 technically skilled graduates a year in Edinburgh, Glasgow and its new Highlands campus in Inverness.

She also championed the formation of the Digital Xtra Fund, a charity dedicated to ensuring all young people across Scotland can benefit from hands on experience of computer science, coding and digital making regardless of geography or economic background. She has also continued to support the charity which has just awarded £100,000 in grants awards to 22 initiatives across Scotland.

Polly was one of the small bid team made up of industry people and academics which developed the proposal for the establishment of The Data Lab, and was also one of the founding team that established the dotScot Registry, Scotland’s top level internet domain.

Polly has represented ScotlandIS on the Scottish Government’s Digital Public Service Advisory Board, the ICT & Digital Technologies Skills Group, the Converge Challenge Advisory Board, the ONE Digital & Entrepreneurship board, the Scotland CAN Do Innovation board, and the Industrial Advisory Board of the University of Dundee’s School of Computing.

Polly also chairs the board of CodeClan, and is a Trustee of the Digital Xtra Fund.

Personally, Polly has been recognised for her impact on the Scottish tech sector, receiving a lifetime achievement award from Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham MSP in 2015, an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2017 for services to the Scottish digital technologies industry, and the lifetime achievement award at the Scottish Women in Technology Awards 2018.

Commenting on the announcement, Polly Purvis said:

“I believe ScotlandIS is very well placed for its new phase of growth – we have a great staff team who share with the board an ambition to grow the business. We’re in the process of strengthening and complementing the existing team with new hires in the areas of data and cyber. We have a fabulous membership full of interesting, innovative and growing technology businesses who build and deliver high quality goods and services. So it’s a good time to hand on to someone who can bring fresh passion and a belief that technology can be a real force for good, and who can help develop the potential of the digital technologies industry as a major force in the new economy being built in Scotland.

“I won’t be leaving immediately, but likely following recruitment and handover, in the late summer. Alongside the new CEO, Karen Meechan will continue to support members in her new role as COO. Karen has been part of ScotlandIS for nearly as long as I have and she knows our members really well. She’s been the person who has made the organisation work day-to-day, growing the membership and creating the Digital Technology Awards – and she led ScotlandIS while I was setting up CodeClan. With our chair, Frances, our wider board and the new CEO, our members – and the industry – will be in excellent hands.”

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20 Feb 2019

£100K in funding awarded to help inspire Scotland’s next generation of digital experts

Grants totalling £100,000 have been awarded by Digital Xtra Fund to 22 extracurricular computing initiatives across Scotland in a bid to create the next generation of digital experts.

The 22 extracurricular computing initiatives have been awarded grants of up to £5,000 each as part of the Fund’s fourth round of grant awards. The grants are designed to support some of Scotland’s hardest-to-reach young people and improve digital skills in areas such as coding, data science and computer-based problem-solving.

Pupils from Anderston Primary School take part in 'Tech Heroes'

The main focus of the grant awards is to engage and inspire those traditionally underrepresented in the technology industry, such as girls and young women, young people in rural areas, and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Grant award recipients for 2019 include Wear-a:bits, which introduces the basics of coding through wearable technology to young people from areas of Glasgow facing multiple deprivation; STEAM Ahead, an initiative to teach coding and digital creativity at libraries in the Outer Hebrides; and Resilient Robotics, an Islay-based initiative designed to develop young people’s perseverance when building robots – a process that can sometimes require a lot of trial and error. Resources for Resilient Robotics will also be made available in Gaelic. Created in 2016, the goal of Digital Xtra Fund is for young people across Scotland to have access to digitally creative activities to increase the number of young people entering highly skilled digital careers, bridging the current skills gap in Scotland.

Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager for Digital Xtra Fund, said: “Today’s young people are the biggest consumers of technology, but we want to teach them how to create it, improve it, and encourage them to become Scotland’s next generation of tech leaders.

Pupils from Anderston PS speak with Kate Forbes MSP and Kraig Brown“There isn’t always an option for young people to learn advanced digital skills at school, and this is why our funding is so important, as it opens up additional opportunities for young people across a wide range of backgrounds.

“We’re also trying to get the message out there that you don’t have to work for a tech company if you’re into coding or data science. There are career opportunities in finance, hospitality, healthcare, agriculture, even fashion – every industry now relies on technology to some degree.”

Grant recipients were officially announced today at an event held at Anderston Primary School in Glasgow. The School’s Tech Heroes after-school club, supported by Digital Xtra Fund, will give pupils the opportunity to use Spheros, micro:bits, Osmo kits and Snap Circuits, as well as practice on-screen coding while they learn about the role of technology across various subjects.

The event was attended by Kate Forbes, MSP and Minster for Public Finance and Digital Economy, as well as representatives from Digital Xtra Fund, Skyscanner, J.P. Morgan, and the Micro:bit Educational Foundation.

Pupils at Anderston PS speak with Kate Forbes MSP (Digital Xtra Fund)Speaking at today’s announcement of the 22 recipients for 2019, the Minister said, “Technology is fundamental to young people’s lives and having digital skills opens up so many opportunities. We want to build a nation where all young people are comfortable using technology whatever their background. Digital Xtra Fund is a great example of different organisations working together to realise these ambitions. I look forward to seeing the initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund develop and I’m certain that they will help inspire the next generation of digital experts.”

Skyscanner is Digital Xtra Fund’s largest private sector contributor for this year’s grant awards. Michael Hall, Senior Engineering Manager at Skyscanner said: “A key goal for Skyscanner’s charity team is to support technology education initiatives for young people and those under-represented in technology. We’ve been so impressed with the impact of the Fund’s work in Scotland and are delighted to have helped increase the total amount of funding awarded this year from £75,000 to £100,000.”

Pupils from Anderston PS show off their micro:bit carsDigital Xtra Fund brings together businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world through an annual grant awards programme. Key Partners include J.P. Morgan, Skills Development Scotland, Skyscanner, and the Scottish Government, as well as Accenture, Baillie Gifford, BT Scotland, CityFibre, Fujitsu, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, Microsoft, ScotlandIS, Sky UK, and Zonal.

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01 Nov 2018

Digital Xtra Fund is seeking to appoint a new Trustee

Digital Xtra Fund is seeking an enthusiastic and committed Trustee who will help guide the charity, shape our strategic direction, and support our fundraising work. We are particularly interested in individuals with an interest in helping young people, an understanding of the digital technologies sector, and, if possible, communications and marketing experience.

Digital Xtra Fund seeking TrusteeDigital Xtra Fund is Scotland’s first and only charity dedicated to supporting a range of extracurricular digital skills initiatives for young people aged 16 and under. We believe every young person in Scotland should have access to innovative and digitally creative activities regardless of their gender, background, or where they live and understand the range of opportunities these skills provide. As the world increasingly becomes reliant on digital technologies, introduction to skills such as coding, computational thinking, digital making, and data analysis from an early age is key to helping young people prepare for their future.

To date, the Fund has distributed £450,000 to organisations delivering extracurricular digital skills initiatives with a further £75,000 available for 2019. This funding has enabled 33 projects thus far, achieving an active engagement of nearly 20,000 young people across all local authorities in Scotland.

Now entering its third year, Digital Xtra Fund is continuing to build links with a diverse range of industry partners to increase the support given to extracurricular digital skills initiatives across Scotland. The Fund also brings together these Partners with supported initiatives to provide context to the skills being taught and promote a range of pathways and exciting careers in the tech sector.

Digital Xtra Fund aims to:

  • Inspire young people to understand and create with technology, not just consume it
  • Enable fun and engaging extracurricular digital skills activities across Scotland
  • Engage our partners with supported activities to help engage young people

You will join six other Trustees on our Board including representatives from the public, private, and third sectors with an interest in young people and digital technologies.

How to apply

Sounds interesting? Please download the Trustee Information Pack and submit your CV and Covering Letter to [email protected] by noon on 3rd December.

We would also be happy to arrange a quick chat with an existing trustee if required.

Please note that this is a voluntary position.

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28 Sep 2018

Microsoft and Digital Xtra Fund to work together supporting digital skills for young people in Scotland

Microsoft’s support will be included as part of the recently announced funding round to help engage and inspire more young people through extracurricular digital technologies activities.

When Microsoft was created in 1975, computer programming was a skill known to a select few. However, as the world increasingly becomes digital, more and more roles in all industries will require advanced digital skills such as computational thinking, coding, or data analysis. Even people who choose not to become actual developers or data scientists will need to understand concepts such as machine learning and internet of things, and how they can affect the rest of the organisation.

Stirling High School 1As such, Microsoft recently launched a programme to teach advanced digital skills to people across the UK and help ensure the country remains a global leader in cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and other next-generation technologies. This includes Microsoft’s commitment to recruit an extra 30,000 digital apprentices for its network of 25,000 partners in the UK, including 6,000 new digital apprentices in Scotland. This is in addition to the 11,000 apprentices already recruited and smashes the target of 4,000 set in 2012. Microsoft has also made it a priority to ensure more women and minority groups are included and supported in these schemes.

Microsoft realises the importance of engaging and inspiring young people with digital technologies from an early age, to sufficiently increase the future talent pool and give as many children as possible the skills they will need to succeed. The company is actively supporting early education through a variety of initiatives including recently selecting Bertha Park High School in Perth as one of one of 17 schools for the first cohort of Microsoft Flagship Schools – the only one based in the UK. Bertha Park High School will have the opportunity to use ground-breaking digital technology to help pupils learn and develop. Teachers will also be encouraged to collaborate with peers in other countries, including the US, Argentina, Germany, Australia and China, to share best practice.

Stirling High SchoolMicrosoft also understands that supporting extracurricular activities is another key route to engaging and inspiring young people. Introducing young people to digital technologies through activities outwith school enables participants to understand skills such as computational thinking, coding, and data science before they are required to choose their courses in S2 (around age 12 or 13), something which can be intimidating for students unsure what is computer science. In addition, some computing courses have been reduced or even dropped in Scotland with over half the Local Authorities lacking enough teachers to sufficiently teach computing science in secondary schools, making extracurricular activities the best option for many of these young people to learn about digital technologies.*

Digital Xtra Fund is a charity created to support and grow extracurricular digital technology initiatives across Scotland which give young people opportunity to learn advanced digital skills regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. Backed by businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world, the Fund provides grants for extracurricular activities that teach young people to understand and create with technology, not simply consume it, and also connects its Partners with supported initiatives to help connect young people with industry professionals.

Most recently, Digital Xtra Fund announced a funding round with £75,000 available. Groups can apply for up to £5,000 for initiatives running in 2019 and applications close 1 November. Since its inception in 2016, the Fund has supported 33 initiatives helping introduce nearly 20,000 young people to the amazing career and life opportunities digital technology can provide.

Stirling High School 3Steven Grier, Country Manager for Scotland at Microsoft, said: “As businesses in Scotland and beyond embrace the huge opportunities driven by AI and Machine Learning, its hugely important that we, as a country, continue to build a skills pipeline of talented, innovative, creative young people to help us stay at the forefront of this technology driven revolution. Digital Xtra Fund helps inspire young people to get involved with digital technology, to imagine the possibilities and ultimately to pursue a career in digital, helping us close our skills gaps and empowering Scotland to achieve more!”

Kraig Brown, Partnerships & Development Manager, Digital Xtra Fund, said: “2018 has been a very exciting year for Digital Xtra Fund as we have welcomed a number of new Partners ranging from companies created and based here in Scotland to multinationals like Microsoft. The support we’ve received from such a variety of organisations speaks to the importance of engaging young people in digital technologies in as many ways possible and showing them the range of careers these skills can provide. For many young people, choosing computer science as a course can be intimidating if they don’t know what it involves or the exciting opportunities these skills can provide. Extracurricular activity is the perfect way to engage more young people and get them exciting about tech.”

*Farrell, Kate. “Computing Science Teachers in Scotland” Computing at School Scotland, BCS, 2016, www.cas.scot/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ComputingTeachersinScotland-CASSReport2016.pdf

*McIvor, Jamie. “Warning over STEM teacher recruitment” BBC Scotland, 30 August 2017, www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-41083438


About Microsoft:

Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

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24 Aug 2018

Digital Xtra Fund to award £75K to help boost digital skills in Scotland

A fresh round of funding will soon be available to inspire young people in Scotland to develop digital skills through high quality extra-curricular activities.

WHS Light Bike - AfGOn 30 August, Digital Xtra Fund will launch its next round of funding with a total of £75,000 available. Grants of up to £5,000 will be awarded to extracurricular activity providers that teach skills such as coding, data science, and computational thinking and help inspire Scotland’s next generation of designers, developers, and digital technologists.

Created in 2016, the goal of the Fund is for young people across Scotland to have access to digitally creative activities to increase the number of young people entering highly skilled digital careers, helping bridge Scotland’s widening skills gap.

Over the past two years, Digital Xtra Fund has supported 33 initiatives enabling them to engage more than 20,000 young people. The Fund has previously supported Code Clubs in public libraries across Scotland; Apps for Good, which teaches young people to develop apps with social benefit; and VEX Robotics, a global robotics competition.

Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager for Digital Xtra Fund, said: “Our aim is to inspire young people to create technology rather than just consume it, and help them understand the huge range of future career opportunities these skills provide. These careers aren’t just in tech companies either, they are across all sectors including finance, hospitality, healthcare, and agriculture too.

Team Velocity“The Fund has already supported some brilliant initiatives and the results have been fantastic. For example, last year the Fund supported the Scottish F1 in Schools STEM Challenge which taught students to design, build, and race model F1 cars. From that, several teams qualified for the UK Finals in Silverstone with two all-girl teams from West Lothian now heading to the World Finals in Singapore, representing Scotland and Britain. This goes to show there is much untapped potential across Scotland which, with a little bit of extra support and expertise, is something we can easily unlock.”

Michael Hall, Senior Engineering Manager at Skyscanner who are a Key Partner of the Fund said, “Digital Xtra Fund is making a real impact and we are excited to be able to support digital skills initiatives from across Scotland. Inspiring the next generation to embrace digital learning and technology is vital for the future of Scotland’s tech sector, as well as our wider economy.”

WCS Coding Club - Gleniffer High, PaisleyDigital Xtra Fund brings together businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world through an annual grant awards programme. Key Partners include Skills Development Scotland, Skyscanner, and Scottish Government, as well as Accenture, Baillie Gifford, BT Scotland, CityFibre, Fujitsu, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, ScotlandIS, Sky UK, and Zonal.

The closing date for applications is 1 November and awardees will be chosen by a panel made up Digital Xtra Fund Partners and EdTech experts. Funding will be awarded to successful initiatives from mid-December 2018.

For more information about the Digital Xtra Fund grant awards, visit digitalxtrafund.scot/apply.

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14 Aug 2018

CityFibre tackles digital skills gap in partnership with Digital Xtra Fund

CityFibre, one of the UK’s leading infrastructure providers, has pledged its support in tackling the digital skills gap in Scotland.

The company – which has created Gigabit Cities in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling – is partnering with Digital Xtra Fund as part of a commitment to help young people across the country.

Young people benefit from digital skillsLaunched in 2016 by the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership, a collaboration of public and private sector organisations, Digital Xtra Fund became an independent charity in March 2017. The Fund aims to ensure that young people have the opportunity to develop the skills required to thrive in the digital age regardless of their gender, background, or where they live.

The partnership will see CityFibre lend financial support, in turn allowing the Fund to boost exciting extracurricular digital technology activities across Scotland such as Stirling High School’s Digital Learning Hub in partnership with CodeBase Stirling, The Prince’s Trust’s #PTDigiDay in Glasgow as part of their Achieve Programme, or Angus Young Engineers’ CAD/CAM Café in Angus.

CityFibre has already shown its commitment to supporting a growth in digital skills across Scotland, having connected a number of schools to its full fibre networks. That infrastructure is laying the foundation for young people to use cutting-edge digital tools and unlock e-learning initiatives such as coding and app-building – skills which will only grow in value in the years to come.

James McClafferty, Head of Regional Development for CityFibre, said: “Digital Xtra Fund is playing a key role in helping young people learn the skills they will need to succeed in a digital future. It is crucial that they are supported by industry, which is why CityFibre is delighted to come on board as a key partner.

CityFibre helps connect schools across Scotland“The full fibre networks we are building across Scotland and the rest of the UK will be vital in helping to unlock the digital potential our young people have, and ensure they are not held back by our current infrastructure. As digital connectivity becomes more and more essential, we have to ensure our young people are capable of making the most of its potential. We look forward to working with Digital Xtra Fund and to identifying projects to support across Scotland.”

In addition to schools, CityFibre’s ultrafast networks are also accelerating the digital capabilities of businesses, local councils, libraries and community centres and the company is determined to help ensure Scotland becomes one of the world’s best connected places.

That vision is fast becoming a reality as CityFibre embarks on its partnership with Vodafone which will see cities transformed through the ‘Fibre to the Premises’ programme. This will bring Gigabit-capable full fibre to one million homes and businesses across the UK by 2021 – with Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Stirling among the first cities announced.

Recent research by economic consultancy Regeneris examined how the economy would benefit from full fibre connectivity, quantifying the impact to cities over 15 years. Across that time period – when many of today’s school pupils will be entering the employment market – there is a clear benefit to full fibre in areas including productivity, innovation, worker flexibility and health.

For example, in the four cities in Scotland where CityFibre is operational – Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling – there is a predicted £458m impact in terms of productivity and innovation.

Kraig Brown, Partnerships & Development Manager, Digital Xtra Fund, said: “It is a very exciting time to partner with CityFibre as they begin to transform the digital landscape of the UK and bring gigabit speed connectivity to entire communities. The high-quality initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund will spark that first interest in digital technologies and equip young people with the skills and experiences they need to succeed in a digital age, but it is organisations like CityFibre who will help fuel long-term possibilities for the next generation.

“Key to a strong digital future is an environment where businesses big and small can develop and grow uninhibited by ageing technology and infrastructure. Unlimited bandwidth has the potential to change the digital landscape for today’s young people as much as email and mobile phones did for my generation.”


About CityFibre:

CityFibre is the UK’s leading alternative provider of wholesale full fibre network infrastructure. With dense duct and fibre footprints in over 40 cities throughout the UK, it provides a portfolio of active and dark fibre services to its customers which include service integrators, enterprise and consumer service providers, local authorities and mobile operators. CityFibre has also recently partnered with Vodafone to bring ultrafast Gigabit-capable full fibre broadband to up to one million UK homes and businesses by 2021.

CityFibre is based in London, United Kingdom, and is privately owned by a consortium of Antin Infrastructure Partners and West Street Infrastructure Partners, a fund managed by Goldman Sachs.

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09 Aug 2018

Micro:bit Educational Foundation provides additional support for initiatives backed by Digital Xtra Fund

I heart micro:bitMicro:bit Educational Foundation has donated 1,200 micro:bits to extracurricular digital skills initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund.

Six initiatives across Scotland will benefit from a total of 1,200 micro:bits as part of their support from Digital Xtra Fund. The hardware, donated by Micro:bit Educational Foundation, will enable Apps for Good, Inverness Science Festival, McLaren High School, CodeBase Stirling, The Prince’s Trust, and West College Scotland to deliver activities beyond the initial funded programme run and help inspire even more young people into digital technologies.

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation’s vision is to inspire every child to create their best digital future by enabling children around the world to get creative with technology and invent in their schools, clubs, and at home. Similarly, Digital Xtra Fund is striving to give every young person in Scotland access to digitally creative activities regardless of their gender, background, or where they live by providing grant awards for exciting initiatives which inspire young people to understand and create with technology, not just consume it. Both organisations were created in 2016 and share very similar goals, presenting a natural opportunity to work together in Scotland.

Credit: Apps for Good

Credit: Apps for Good

The six initiatives received grants as part of the 2017/18 Digital Xtra Fund grant awards to deliver a variety of exciting digital skills initiatives across Scotland. Each have a unique approach to engaging young people with digital technology. For instance, Apps for Good teaches young people how to build, market and launch digital solutions to address challenges faced by their community and a total of 332 micro:bits will be distributed to nine schools across Scotland who have enrolled in their Internet of Things course. The course explores the benefits and potential issues surrounding IoT and introduces participants to the technology underpinning IoT devices. Students learn how to build circuits using sensors and actuators so that they can understand the principles behind the technology. Resources are based on the micro:bit and Arduino microprocessor boards, so having the hardware on hand is key to learning the material. Schools will also retain the hardware, allowing them to reuse it to deliver future activities.

During last year’s Apps for Good IoT course, the award-winning solution ‘SafeStep’ was created using micro:bits by students at Dunoon Grammar School. It consisted of a range of potentially life-saving rugs with inbuilt pressure sensors that determined if somebody had fallen and uses an app to alert carers or loved ones.

Credit: Micro:bit Educational Foundation

Credit: Micro:bit Educational Foundation

West College Scotland will take a different approach to engaging young people with the micro:bits sharing a total of 500 units between three new coding clubs at Renfrewshire secondary schools and 27 primary and secondary teachers who took part in a training session hosted by WCS in association with Microsoft Education, Renfrewshire Council, and Paisley YMCA. The session focused on increasing teachers’ confidence and encouraging the use of coding in the classroom with each teacher receiving a set of micro:bits for use in their classroom. This training is vital to creating a strong ecosystem of computing activities in Renfrewshire as these teachers will now manage the current coding clubs as well as initiate new ones with the assistance of STEM Ambassadors and senior school pupils.

Kavita Kapoor, Chief Operating Officer, Micro:bit Educational Foundation said, “The impact of this initiative has been shown to be very positive and the Foundation is very proud to have supported the scheme ”

Kraig Brown, Partnerships & Development Manager, Digital Xtra Fund said, “Since 2016, initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund have engaged nearly 20,000 young people across Scotland. The real legacy of the Fund will be a strong ecosystem of extracurricular activities who have the right hardware and educator confidence to continue giving young people the opportunity to get hands on and creative with technology. Support from organisations like Micro:bit Educational Foundation is key to achieving this legacy.”

Digital Xtra Fund is currently developing the 2018/19 grant awards supporting digital skills initiatives across Scotland, many of which use the micro:bit to engage young people. The Fund is supported by a range of industry partners who share a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world including the Micro:bit Educational Foundation. The Foundation is also in the midst of rolling out their biggest and most exciting micro:bit coding challenge to date – the global micro:bit challenge – and has commissioned Lancaster University’s Department of Educational Research to research ‘Using Micro:bit Devices in Teaching and Learning’. The study seeks to explore how teachers and students have been using the micro:bit to support teaching and learning in computing as well as in wider cross-curricular ways.


About Micro:bit Educational Foundation

Micro:bit Educational Foundation’s vision is to inspire every child to create their best digital future. The Foundation is enabling children around the world to get creative with technology and invent in school, in clubs, and at home. The micro:bit is a handheld, fully programmable computer that was rolled out across the UK in 2016. It’s 70 times smaller than the original BBC Micro computers used in schools in the early 1980s, and now it has built-in sensors, an LED display and a Bluetooth radio, so it’s instantly interactive.

Started by the BBC and a team of partners, Micro:bit Educational Foundation is a non-profit organisation continuing the micro:bit programme and bringing it to schools and children around the world. The Foundation was established with the support of our founding partners in September 2016. Micro:bit Educational Foundation is a UK based organisation and redistributes the bulk of any surplus money generated into providing free devices to exceptional micro:bit educational programmes across the globe.


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18 Jul 2018

Zonal supports Scotland’s next generation techies with Digital Xtra Fund

Leading Scottish technology firm, Zonal, has teamed up with Digital Xtra Fund to help fund technology initiatives for young people across Scotland.

The funding will help guarantee that even more young people have access to digitally creative activities and give them a better understanding of the future career opportunities digital skills provide, regardless of their gender, background, or where they live.

ZonalEdinburgh based Zonal was recently voted Family Business of the Year 2018 and for almost 40 years has been designing and delivering technology solutions for the hospitality sector, including its market leading EPoS system, Aztec. Today, it employs around 550 people with over 200 located at its Tanfield headquarters.

Head of Human Resources, Catriona Dick, said: “Our chief executive’s father, Ralph McLean, devised the UK’s first EPoS solution for his hotel in order to keep track of sales and stock. Fast forward 39 years and Zonal is number one across the UK when it comes to providing the hospitality sector with technology innovations and we are keen to make sure the next generation have the skillset in place to keep us in pole position.

“We have been impressed by the work of Digital Xtra Fund and are delighted to play our part in supporting more young people as they discover the fantastic range of job opportunities open to them in the blossoming world of digital technology.”

The support from Zonal will form part of the Fund’s annual grant awards for high-quality digital skills initiatives in Scotland and will include visits to the firm’s HQ with mentoring support for students seeking a career in technology.

Kraig Brown, Partnerships & Development Manager, Digital Xtra Fund said: “We are very excited to welcome Zonal as a Partner of Digital Xtra Fund. Zonal is a highly successful family owned technology company and very proud of its Scottish heritage. The company is a great innovator and shares our commitment to bridge the digital skills gap through partnership and collaboration. We look forward to working with the team at Zonal to help inspire more young people across Scotland.”

Photo by Rory SempleDigital Xtra Fund was originally established in 2016 and funded through the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership whose partners included both public sector and industry representatives. In March 2017, Digital Xtra Fund became an independent charity to enable it to work with a wider range of partners. In its first year as a charity, the Fund supported 11 fun and engaging digital skills initiatives across Scotland ranging from coding clubs in rural areas to designing apps and technology for social good.

Zonal is the leading provider of integrated hospitality management solutions to over 16,000 leisure and hospitality businesses across the UK. For nearly 40 years, the company has been working closely with clients to enhance the customer experience through market leading technology, experienced people and a partnership approach to business.


About Zonal:

Zonal began in 1979 when the McLean Family identified the need to monitor sales, stock, and wastage in their family hotel near Edinburgh when they noticed shortfalls in stock and takings. Zonal founder, the late Ralph McLean, invented a solution to manage and control operations and the first EPoS system was created.  After being adopted by a number of regional breweries and pub groups, the family hotel was sold to grow the business from their offices on Forth Street in Edinburgh. The Forth Street site remained the company’s head office until 2014 when it moved to state of the art premises at Tanfield.

Zonal has developed and evolved from a small Scottish business to a company that employs over 450 people whilst still maintaining its proud Scottish heritage. Today, Zonal solutions are used daily in over 15,000 leisure and hospitality businesses across the UK, ranging from restaurant and pub groups, night clubs to, garden centres.  The company’s full product suite of technology solutions enable Zonal to offer a fully integrated service to any hospitality business.


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10 Jul 2018

Baillie Gifford partners with Digital Xtra Fund to invest in digital skills across Scotland

Known for investing in digital tech companies from Silicon Valley and Shenzhen, Baillie Gifford is partnering with Digital Xtra Fund to invest in digital tech skills here in Scotland.

Digital Xtra Fund is delighted to announce a partnership with global Investment Managers, Baillie Gifford. Digital Xtra Fund is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) which supports extracurricular digital technology activities across Scotland, giving young people opportunity to learn advanced digital skills regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. Backed by businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world, the Fund provides grant awards for activities which inspire, engage, and enable young people to be digitally innovative and creative, and helps them understand the variety of future career opportunities these skills will make available.

BG Partnership AnnouncementDigital Xtra Fund became a charity in March 2017 to enable it to work with a wide range of industry partners. Last year, the Fund awarded grant awards for 11 exciting, high-quality initiatives across Scotland such as Stirling High School’s Digital Learning Hub in partnership with CodeBase Stirling. The initiative saw pupils from SHS deliver a variety of Raspberry Pi based workshops to six primary schools in the area creating a sustainable ecosystem of young developers in Stirling.

Helping young people and the community is part of the culture at Baillie Gifford. For more than 100 years, it has been a feature of the Edinburgh community and has a long history of supporting initiatives which make positive differences in the areas of the arts, education, and sports. Baillie Gifford’s support for Digital Xtra Fund will extend their already considerable CSR programme and give more young people the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly digital world. Baillie Gifford recognises it is important to foster these digital skills as more and more companies look to recruit young digital talent and increase their diversity to grow and achieve success. Baillie Gifford’s successful track record of finding and investing in emerging and growing tech companies speaks to their ability to also recognise and support strong digital talent.

Mark Urquhart, Partner at Baillie Gifford, said: “As investors, we have long observed the powerful impact which technology can have in terms of changing lives and improving access to opportunities. We are happy to be able to support the exciting work of Digital Xtra Fund in trying to encourage similar outcomes in Scotland through wider use of technologies.”

Kraig Brown, Partnerships & Development Manager, Digital Xtra Fund, said: “Our partnership with Baillie Gifford marks a new chapter for Digital Xtra Fund; as a financial company, they are our first “non-tech” partner, however, through their work with some of the world’s most successful tech companies as well as their investment in their own digital infrastructure, they recognise the necessity for young people to learn high-level digital skills to succeed in any sector. Their support illustrates the important role digital technology plays across all parts of the Scottish economy and how Digital Xtra Fund is perfectly placed to be the de facto young people’s digital skills charity for all sectors.”


About Baillie Gifford:

Baillie Gifford is an investment management firm wholly owned by 44 partners, all of whom work within the firm. It was founded in Edinburgh in 1908 and still has its headquarters in the city today. As of 31 March 2018, Baillie Gifford has £177.6 billion under management and advice in specialist equity, fixed income and multi-asset portfolios for a global client base.

Whether through their financial or community investments, Baillie Gifford believes the best ideas spring from thinking about future possibilities, not short-term probabilities. They are committed to partnering with dynamic organisations who strive to make Scotland a better place to live, work and visit. https://www.bailliegifford.com

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