Primary school children will start the new school year with enriched support to learn vital computing and digital creativity skills as the BBC micro:bit – the next gen campaign rolls out to schools across the UK. Tens of thousands of micro:bit classroom sets will be distributed for free – thanks to a donation from Nominet – the guardians of the .UK domain, as well as brand-new teaching resources to accelerate computational thinking, programming, digital creativity and machine learning knowledge among primary school pupils.
Popular YouTuber DanTDM, Blue Peter presenter Abby Cook, BBC and S4C presenter Alexandra Humphreys and CBeebies presenter Gyasi Sheppy will deliver the micro:bits to primary schools across the UK.
The project aims to inspire all youngsters to be excited by technology and see it as a means to unleash their creativity and have fun.
Last year, computing A-Level continued to have the highest gender gulf of entrants while the UK tech industry is comprised of just 26% of women. By engaging children in earlier, more formative years, the next gen project seeks to counter harmful stereotypes before they have time to bed in and broaden participation in a rewarding and increasingly vital aspect of our modern daily lives.
Helen Foulkes, Head of BBC Education, says: “In an ever-evolving digital age, BBC Education remains committed to inspiring the digital makers, inventors and pioneers of tomorrow. The BBC micro:bit – the next gen initiative is all about ensuring that every primary school student is given the tools to imagine and innovate with technology. Our aim is to not only equip these young minds with digital skills but to inspire creativity, challenge stereotypes, and nurture a passion for learning. With support from our partners, together we take a significant step towards creating a diverse digital future across the UK – and we can’t wait to see all of the wonderful things primary school children create with their micro:bit devices along the way!”
Gareth Stockdale, CEO, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, says: “Our experience and research show how pivotal early learning confidence and interest is to encourage longer-term studies of technology-related studies. Capturing children’s attention in these formative primary school years is critical and the micro:bit is a great tool to have fun and learn about tech.
“We’re excited to welcome the next generation of teachers and pupils to the power of the micro:bit. Together with the exciting CBBC brands and support from Nominet, our new training and projects will provide a great introduction to a world of digital opportunities. The project couldn’t happen without the support of a wide range of industry and education partners.”
(Image: Scott Kershaw)
Inspiring digital creativity with CBBC star cameos
To boost the project, the micro:bit will be prominently featured in a week-long takeover across CBBC, on favourite shows such as Blue Peter and Saturday Mash Up. The BBC micro:bit – the next gen campaign will continue to integrate education and entertainment, with more features of the micro:bit planned in CBBC programming across the academic year with accompanying teaching resources.
BBC Education and the Micro:bit Educational Foundation are also partnering on resources inspired by CBBC’s iconic brands Dumping Ground and Football Academy. Within this collaboration, a new Make it: code it kick strength tracker will be available, and will enable primary school children to become sports scientists, with a brand-new micro:bit project that allows you to monitor performance.
Elsewhere, there will be a curated area on the BBC Teach website called Code Your Own Way that encourages children to code with a virtual micro:bit. This will include inspirational content with the micro:bit that encourages children to start their own programming projects, from making music, magic eight ball or creating an electronic pets.
Empowering primary school teachers to teach digital
Research from Micro:bit Educational Foundation and Nominet to understand the challenges facing UK primary school teachers and how to improve digital skills education found teachers feel overwhelmed, underprepared and lack the confidence to teach the digital curriculum asked of them today. 61% of UK primary teachers responsible for teaching computing have no background in the subject, while 3 in 5 also cite lack of resources as a barrier.
The Micro:bit Educational Foundation and training partners in each of the nations will be delivering virtual teacher training to support teachers in the delivery of digital and computing education. Resources to support teachers starting out with micro:bit will also launch. First lessons with MakeCode and micro:bit will provide a pathway of lesson plans and professional development for teachers to begin their micro:bit journey.
Introducing children to machine learning
The next gen campaign will also be partnering with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to give primary school pupils the chance to get involved in a large-scale playground survey from May 2024. The survey will look to understand everything about the playground from its size, the biodiversity, how things can be affected by temperature and what kids do during their playtimes. The development of pioneering lessons and activities around this survey will introduce children as young as 7 and 8 to machine learning and working with digital data.
The project has been generously supported by Nominet, whose funding has enabled 675,000 BBC micro:bits to be provided for free to UK primary schools. Research carried out by Nominet and the Micro:bit Educational Foundation showed that primary teachers need more support in teaching digital skills and computing. The research led to the formation of this project, which aims to empower young people to be ready for the digital challenges of the future. Primary schools will need to register to claim their free micro:bits, and registration is open until the end of the year.
This has also been enabled by the support of a wide range of industry and education partners including Arm, CCEA, Education Scotland, Farnell, Lancaster University, Microsoft, National Centre for Computing Education, Okdo, STMicroelectronics, Technocamps and Twinkl.
Eleanor Bradley, Managing Director of Registry and Social Impact, Nominet, says: “We’re proud to have made this project possible with our donation of micro:bits. We’re living in an increasingly digital age and many primary school children will find themselves in careers that don’t even exist yet – like those in Artificial Intelligence. Many of us remember the impact the BBC Computer Literacy Project in the 1980s had on an entire generation, and if we can inspire young children to consider a future in tech, then this latest micro:bit programme will be a huge success.”
Sir Ian Diamond, National Statistician, ONS, says: “Data is central to today’s world and the lifeblood of the ONS. It’s vital that our children are educated about the essential role it plays in modern society, so I’m very happy to support BBC micro:bit – the next gen. It will give them the opportunity for some great early experience in data collection and analysis. Hopefully it will inspire them to be the next generation of data scientists and, who knows, maybe even a National Statistician of the future.”
Get involved! Primary schools will need to register to claim their free micro:bits, and registration is open until the end of the year (18 December 2023). For more information and to register, go to bbc.co.uk/teach/microbit
Notes to editors
Launched as part of the BBC’s pioneering Make It Digital initiative in 2014, the BBC micro:bit is a pocket-sized computer that gives children an enjoyable way to learn digital creativity and programming skills, enabling them to shape their best digital future. Following the initial launch, the Micro:bit Educational Foundation was founded in 2016 as a non-profit organisation, continuing to develop, advance and extend the reach of the micro:bit and accompanying resources across the globe. Over six million devices are now in use globally, and it is estimated that 39 million young people from more than 60 countries have benefited from learning with the micro:bit so far.
Nominet has been a long-term partner in educational programmes with the Micro:bit Educational Foundation and BBC Education, and has made funds available to supply up to 700,000 micro:bits or approximately 30 per UK primary school, as part of the micro:bit – the next gen project.