Catch them early

Townley Grammar is a high performing grammar school for girls that specialises in the teaching of computing. As a specialist computing school and a Computing Hub, we are confident in our ability to give the girls that come to Townley a strong grounding in computer programming and coding – something which is encouraging many of them to take computing at GSCE, A-level and beyond – but we are aware that this is not the case for all schools, especially primaries.

With a lack of resources and expertise when it comes to computing, many young pupils barely scrape the surface of this all-important subject until they reach secondary school. This puts them on the back foot compared to pupils who went to schools that were better equipped to develop their computational skills.

Reaching out to the community

We are passionate about engaging girls in the computing curriculum from as early an age as possible, and making it fun, accessible and relatable for them, which is why we work with Digital Schoolhouse – a not-for-profit initiative powered by PlayStation, which brings creative computing education into schools across the country – to share our knowledge with local primary school children and their teachers.

This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity, enabling us to build strong relationships with our local primaries in a way that no other initiative would enable us to do. Through our computing programme, we’re also able to help level the playing field for all children when it comes to computational knowledge and skills.

Every week, a group of primary school children come to Townley, accompanied by their teachers, and our expert computing teachers deliver the Digital Schoolhouse computing programme. While you may imagine this as children sat in front of screens, in reality we use resources to teach them coding in fun and creative ways – such as through dance! By getting the girls to learn a series of dance moves, and to then put them together in a particular sequence until they have mastered a choreographed piece, we are able to teach them the fundamentals of coding and data sequencing using a technique that is familiar and engaging.

Training for teachers, too

The idea is to get our young visitors thinking about coding in a whole new way – not as something alien and ‘techy’ which is inaccessible to them, but as an extension of what they already know, such as how puzzles are put together, how dances are choreographed, and how verbal instructions and communication work. Also, we are able to ensure that this development of children’s computational thinking skills continues once they return to primary school, as we deliver training to their teachers too. Aside from enhancing their capacity to teach computing to primary-school-aged children, this also helps us to build strong and fruitful relationships with primary schools in our community – something which can be tricky to do over email and phone.

By meeting with them on a regular basis, getting to know them and their pupils, we have developed a more in-depth understanding of what primary schools in our area need when it comes to the computing curriculum, and how we can work with them to ensure that all children – regardless of age, gender, or which primary school they attended – are being exposed to the world of computer programming before they reach secondary school. And this means they can hit the ground running when they arrive!

About the author

Desmond Deehan is head teacher at Townley Grammar School