Computer coding classes for disadvantaged children could boost social mobility in digital careers

24th August 2016 at 00:01
coding, programming, technology, disadvantaged pupils, the sutton trust
More than 200 state-school pupils from disadvantaged homes will learn computer code, as part of two new pilot schemes designed to improve social mobility in the digital-technology sector

The Imperial Sutton Scholars project will help pupils between the ages of 11 and 14 to learn more about coding, programming and the application of these skills in the sciences. Participants will be drawn from schools in Greater London, and will take part in activity days at Imperial College, London.

Another scheme, Pathways to Coding, will teach coding and programming skills to pupils aged between 16 and 18. The teenagers will also be offered e-mentoring, talks and campus coding days.

Both schemes, working with a total of 220 secondary pupils, will be run by the Sutton Trust social mobility charity. In addition to coding and programming, the projects will offer pupils advice to help them access jobs in the technology sector.

Recent research by the Sutton Trust found that there are significant barriers preventing disadvantaged pupils from pursuing careers in the digital sector. It found that these pupils, unlike their better-off peers, were not exposed to information about coding from a young age.

Thousands of new jobs

In addition, disadvantaged pupils were under-represented on science, technology, engineering and maths degree courses. Large technology companies tend to recruit graduates from these courses. Disadvantaged pupils also lacked the financial resources to take the risks inherent in working for a start-up company.

There are currently around 1.5 million jobs in the digital sector in the UK, 400,000 of which involve coding. It is estimated that there will be 100,000 new coding jobs by 2020.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said the digital sector looked likely to offer financially rewarding careers to many pupils. “But we need to make sure that these opportunities are available to all young people, not just those from better-off backgrounds,” he said.

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