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E-Skills UK, a public private sector partnership, is raising government and private sector sponsorship to help schools set up computer clubs for girls following a series of successful pilots.
Research by E-Skills UK shows that the clubs, for 10 to 13-year-olds, have dramatically transformed the negative perceptions about the IT profession among female pupils in the areas where they have been piloted.
After trying the clubs, the majority of girls said they would consider a career in IT, compared to only a handful who would consider it before attending the club.
"Between the ages of 10 to 13 years, girls become 'switched off' by technology," said Melody Hermon, project manager for careers in computing at E-Skills UK. "Computer clubs aim to raise girls' skills levels though activities that have been specifically designed to keep them motivated towards a career in IT."
The clubs allows girls to learn IT skills by taking part in fun activities such as designing their own websites, producing magazines or composing music.
E-Skills UKbelieves that the clubs will help address the gender imbalance in the IT workforce, which is currently 80% male, and will eventually offer employers a wider choice of candidates.
E-Skills UK teamed up with the South East England Development Agency to trial the computer clubs in 2002 in 28 schools in the South East. Last year, 128 schools began a full pilot programme that will involve 4,000 pupils by June 2004.
Feedback from the girls suggests that the clubs are proving popular. The first term was described by 88% of the girls as either "pretty good" or "absolutely brilliant".