Not-for-profit educational foundation Micro:bit has committed to donating 57,000 coding devices to UK primary schools for free, in a bid to boost computer science skills amongst younger students.
The scheme has received funding and support from both the UK-based domain registry Nominet and the Scottish government and is expected to start rolling out in April. In total, 57,000 BBC Micro:bit devices have been earmarked for donation, alongside teaching resources and online courses.
The support from the Scottish government means that every primary school in Scotland will receive 20 devices, while around 3,000 primary schools across England, Wales and Northern Ireland will also receive 20 devices each.
The BBC Micro:bit is a pocket-sized computer that has an LED light display, buttons, sensors and a number of input and output features that users can program and physically interact with. The latest version of the Micro:bit also has an onboard speaker and microphone.
The UK is facing a long-term digital skills crisis, with analysis published by the UK government in 2018 estimating that failing to close the digital skills gap could cost the UK up to £141 billion in GDP growth by 2028.
Teachers are also struggling to meet the computing skills needs of pupils, with research from Micro:bit finding that 61% of UK primary teachers responsible for teaching computing have no background in the subject, and three in five cite a lack of resources as a barrier to teaching computing and digital skills.
Founded in the UK in 2016, Micro:bit was originally created by the BBC, in partnership with 29 other organisations, including Arm, Microsoft, and Samsung, as part of the BBC’s Make It Digital initiative. That same year, the not-for-profit distributed around 1 million devices to pupils aged 11 and 12, with the aim of helping young people embrace technology and gain interest in science, technology, engineering, and maths career paths.
In a blog post announcing the scheme, Micro:bit CEO Gareth Stockdale said that digital literacy and computational thinking are critically important skills and that the earlier they’re learnt, the better.
“The BBC Micro:bit has become an essential tool that teachers and students alike have come to love. We’ve seen fantastic adoption in secondary schools, and we’re delighted to support and empower even more teachers to unlock children’s creative potential at primary level,” he said.
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