Galway schools help to pioneer national programme in computer coding

A pilot programme to help schools introduce coding at junior cycle is to be extended to a second phase from September 2019, Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh has announced this week.

Two Galway secondary schools — Coláiste na bPiarsach, Ros Muc, and Coláiste Na Coiribe, Gaillimh — were among almost 50 selected nationally in 2017 to pioneer junior cycle Coding in Action, an initiative spearheaded by the Department of Education and Skills’ Junior Cycle for Teachers support service, Lero – the Irish Software Research Centre, Science Foundation Ireland, and Intel Ireland.

An interim review of the Junior Cycle Coding in Action initiative, published on Tuesday, showed the positive impact of the initiative on the post-primary schools involved in the first phase and called for the programme to be extended to a new group of 50 schools in a second phase.

Minister McHugh welcomed the report and praised the schools, teachers and pupils involved in the initiative. “The Government is committed to promoting digital training in schools, with the junior cycle coding course and Leaving Certificate computer science both making a marked difference for young people,” the Minister said.

“Increasing the availability of a coding programme at junior cycle will boost the take up and completion of computing at secondary and into third level — an important goal for our economy and the creation of exciting employment opportunities for our young people.

“There are also 40 schools offering Leaving Certificate computer science since last September. These developments will prove invaluable in the coming years in helping to prepare our young people for work and further education.”

The schools offering computer science as a Leaving Cert subject for 2020 include St Brigid's Mercy Secondary School, Convent of Mercy, Tuam, Co Galway.

Dr Padraig Kirk, director of Junior Cycle for Teachers, added: “The success and experience gained in the pilot Junior Cycle Coding in Action initiative will inform our work with a new group of 50 schools, from September.”

“Many of today’s pupils are already pretty tech savvy," said Clare McInerney, education and public engagement manager of Lero. "If we are to harness this interest and widen the availability of computing in schools then it is vital that we provide the necessary training support to teachers which is what this programme set out to do.”

Ms McInerney is co-author of the report with Una Fleming, Lero/EPI*STEM, the National Centre for STEM Education at the University of Limerick.

The interim report is available at www.jct.ie

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