Learn to code for free: The UK's best coding and app development courses

Use your time at home to learn the skills needed to get a better job

Two people looking at code on a computer monitor

Coding is recognised as one of the key skills for the workforces of today and tomorrow, with a big push to teach it to younger generations. In recent years it has established its importance for practically every industry, and as a result, learning to code has become increasingly popular among people of all ages, enabling them to create apps, design websites, build software and much more.

Coding literacy is highly valued among many employers, even for non-developer roles thanks to the many transferable and versatile skills it teaches, and with the rapidly changing work patterns caused by the events of 2020, programming has become more vital than ever. As such, learning to code is a great way to reinvigorate your career or set you on an entirely new path.

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Demand for coders in the UK is huge and continues to grow. Glassdoor reports the average base pay for software developers at almost £40,000, and higher-salaried developers can earn up to six-figure pay packets. The variety of coding work available means that it can support many different working models including permanent, flexible and freelance, and allows you the capacity to generalise or work in specialist areas.

There are certain courses that can cost you thousands of pounds, but more affordable alternatives are also available. We’ve created a list of some of the best free coding courses and tutorial programmes that can help you develop your skills.

FreeCodeCamp

Website: https://www.freecodecamp.org/

FreeCodeCamp is a charitable organisation that features a learning platform with tutorials and verified certifications. Every part of the website is completely free.

Users learn to code by finishing coding challenges and building projects. There are currently over 6,000 tutorials on offer to potential students, and with no set schedule, students can work through tutorials and projects in their own time.

Certifications include responsive web design, JavaScript, Data visualisation, APIs and microservices, and information security and quality assurance.

Code First Girls

Website: https://www.codefirstgirls.org.uk/

This coding website is aimed at women and was founded by Alice Bentinck and Matt Clifford. The charity provides free, part-time coding courses and so far has taught 10,000 women around the UK for free.

Its free coding kick-starter courses are designed to fit in around full-time studies and delivered at over 50 locations in the UK. Eligible participants must be between 18-23, have studied in the last two years or be a current university student.

Among these courses are introductions to web development, python programming, data science and SQL programming

Grasshopper

Website: https://grasshopper.app/

This platform was thought up by Google employees as part of the company’s workshop for experimental products, Area 120. It comes as an app or website with quick lessons on your phone or desktop.

It covers the basics of JavaScript and teaches users how to animate with code, as well as problem-solving techniques. It also teaches how to build a website with HTML and CSS.

Code Your Future

Website: https://codeyourfuture.io/

Launched in 2016, this charity supports refugees and disadvantaged individuals to become developers. At present, the charity runs classes in Manchester, Birmingham, London, and Glasgow. There is also a class being run in Rome, Italy. The organisation teaches skills in HTML and CSS, JavaScript, Node.js, and React as well as non-technical skills. 

Students may also be eligible for financial support to cover costs including Wi-Fi, transportation, childcare, and lunch in certain circumstances, following the completion of an initial introduction to coding course. A second, much more substantial course also covers full-stack web development.

Codecademy

Website: https://www.codecademy.com/

One of the behemoths of free coding, Codeacademy started in 2011 and now supports over 25 million people using the platform to learn programming skills. It is completely free, and students can learn at their own pace. It also has a large community of members that newbies can ask questions of and discuss ideas.

It’s notably hands-on with users expected to build websites and apps to learn skills. The courses are wide-ranging and cover (but are not limited to) HTML, CSS, JavaScript Rails, Ruby, jQuery, PHP, Python, and SQL.

Coursera

Website: https://www.coursera.org/

This is another large platform offering free coding courses, with curriculums put together by universities and companies in the industry. It doesn’t just provide the basic skills in coding, such as HTML, CSS, and so on; it goes way beyond this, with a huge range of topics on offer outside of programming and tech skills.

Unlike many other tools, Coursera is tutor-led, but while the courses are free, to gain an accredited qualification, or “Coursera Verified Certificate”, you’ll need to stump up some cash (anywhere in the region of $30 upwards).

Founders & Coders

Website: https://www.foundersandcoders.com/

This UK-based charity develops and runs tuition-free, peer-led training programmes in full-stack web development. It’s a unique way to learn to code with a focus on getting a job that uses these skills.

It runs 18-week long courses in London at Space4 in Finsbury Park. The first half of the course is spent learning HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Node.JS and other basic building blocks of web development, as well as user-centred design and entrepreneurship. 

Profits made from graduate placement are fed back into funding the training process. In addition, students are expected to spend one to two evenings a month mentoring prospective applications. Graduates of the course spend at least one full week volunteering as a mentor during the first eight weeks of the following cohort.

Microsoft Learn

Website: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/

If you want to focus your studies on Microsoft products, then the company has its own learning platform. Formerly known as Microsoft Virtual Academy, Microsoft Learn courses cover Microsoft Azure, Microsoft 365, Power BI, and SQL Server to name a mere few.

Whereas Virtual Academy was composed of recorded training videos structured around learning paths for specific topic areas, the new platform is constructed of learning plans with written content and hands-on labs. Each Learning Path comprises multiple modules, which are made up of multiple units. 

Students who complete their course will earn a Microsoft Certified qualification, which are widely acknowledged and handy to have on a CV.

W3Schools

Website: https://www.w3schools.com/

This website is for anyone wanting to learn more about HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, SQL, jQuery, AngularJS, XML and Bootstrap. Instead of guided learning, W3Schools gives students all the information about the elements of computer languages. 

You can learn about languages by simply reading about them, or using an online editor, which allows you to edit examples and run code in a sandbox to see how things work. While the learning resources are free, to get a formal qualification, W3Schools also offers a paid-for test.

Code.org

Website: https://code.org/

This is another charity dedicated to encouraging people (especially schoolchildren and students) to learn how to code. There are introductory tutorials, about an hour-long, that cover hundreds of activities in over 45 languages.

The organisation’s primary goal is to teach children, so the courses are designed with this in mind, but if you’re looking for a course that definitely won’t assume any prior knowledge or experience, then this could be a good fit.

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