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Primary schools to receive BBC micro:bits in digital literacy push

The initiative comes amid an "all-time high" shortage of talent in cyber security, big data analytics and technical architects

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation, the Scottish government, and domain registry Nominet will donate 57,000 BBC micro:bit devices to 3,000 primary schools in a bid to improve digital literacy skills across the UK.

First unveiled in 2015, the pocket-sized device is a single-board computer designed by the BBC to help schoolchildren engage with and learn about coding and software development

Every primary school in Scotland, as well as an additional estimated 1,000 primary schools in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales will receive around 20 devices each, with 22,000 devices prioritised for institutions needing additional support the most.

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Alongside the 57,000 BBC micro:bit devices, schoolchildren will also receive comprehensive teaching resources and online Continuing Professional Development courses, the Micro:bit Educational Foundation announced on Wednesday.

The initiative comes amid an "all-time high" shortage of talent in cyber security, big data analytics and technical architects.

What's more, research by Vodafone found that digital literacy is becoming as important as reading and writing for young people’s future life prospects. One in two UK 18-24-year olds have limited access to a laptop, tablet or PC, which leads to difficulties in attending online lessons or exams, applying for jobs, and gaining the necessary digital skills for many of today’s roles.

School equipment shortages tend to contribute to the problem, with Nominet research finding that 3 in 5 teachers cited lack of resources as a barrier to teaching computing and digital skills.

Commenting on Wednesday’s announcement, Micro:bit Educational Foundation CEO Gareth Stockdale described digital literacy and computational skills as “critically important not only to the future of our society, but to the future of children who will one day shape that society”. 

“They are increasingly important core skills, and we know that the earlier you learn them, 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.

Nominet CTO Adam Leach added that the rollout will allow “more primary schoolchildren to explore and develop their skills in digital creativity and computing”.

“Each one of the 57,000 devices will impact on developing children’s core digital skills as citizens of a digitalised world – and perhaps even put some of them on a pathway to help fill the digital skills gap in the UK’s digital workforce of the future,” he said.

Deliveries of the micro:bit devices will begin in April 2022.

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