BBC gives UK schools one million devices in digital education initiative

BBC launches digital-first initiative to teach children programming and digital technologies, giving UK schools one million coding devices

The BBC has launched a digital-first initiative to teach children to use programming and digital technologies, starting by giving one million coding devices to schools across the UK.

The Micro Bit coding device will be given to all Year 7 children to encourage coding, reminiscent of the BBC Microcomputer seen in schools in the 1980s.

BBC director general Tony Hall said: “In just 15 years’ time the numbers of people working in technology look set to have grown by around 40%.”

But he pointed out the current skills gap means this growing sector is underpopulated and, since the BBC reaches 97% of the people in the UK, it provides a good platform from which to launch a skills-building initiative.  

The broadcaster has launched a digital trainee programme to train 5,000 young unemployed people in digital skills.

In a video of supporters shown at the launch event, Paul Smith, from quango Innovate UK, highlighted how the internet of things (IoT) will require even more people to have digital skills across the world.

Read more about the digital skills shortage

  • The UK is failing to address its digital skills shortage, according to a House of Lords Digital Skills Committee report.
  • Two million small firms are missing out on business due to a lack of digital skills and online presence, a report from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) and Go ON UK has revealed.

Cross-industry digital promotion

The BBC will work with 50 organisations – such as BT, Google, ARM and Microsoft – and will launch a series of dedicated educational activities and events to promote digital expertise.  

One partner, FutureLearn, said they had worked with the BBC to develop free online courses to teach skills such as big data, cyber security and programming.

Speaking at the launch, Ian Livingstone, co-founder of Games Workshop and Creative Skillset Patron, pointed out that digital literacy is an important base everyone in the future will need to have – whether or not they want to be coders.

“There’s a hierarchy of skills but what’s important is every child needs to understand how code works in this world if they want to be effective digital operators,” he said.

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