BT expands Barefoot programme to teach kids computing

400,000 primary school kids to get lessons in tech skills

school kids

BT is to expand its Barefoot Computing initiative to teach 400,000 children across the UK IT skills by 2016.

The programme will be extended to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, after being introduced in England last year.

The telco giant also said that it would double its current commitment by promising to train more than 15,000 teachers, also working with schools to see how technology can be applied to improve school life.

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In promoting the scheme, the telco pointed to research carried out on behalf of the company that showed the majority of schools lack access to the right technology and support to get the best from it.

Teachers told BT that technology is more often a disruptor than an enabler in the classroom because of the use of old software.

The research also found that children, especially girls, found computing lessons dull and difficult and are getting conflicting messages about their use of technology from parents, who are actively encouraging less use, and teachers who are telling them they need to know how to code.

Parents do not see computing as an important skill and have a narrow - in some cases, negative - perception of the careers it can lead to, according to the study.

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Gavin Patterson, CEO of BT, warned that the next generation of children lack the tech knowledge and skills to ensure the UK remains a leading player in the future global economy.

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"The UK's future as a technology leader hinges on young people getting the skills, support and training they need to create successful careers in science, engineering and IT. There won't only be more demand for specialist tech skills; many jobs, in different sectors, will require some level of tech literacy," he said.

"If we're to have a dynamic economy, we need a society where people understand the basics behind how tech works, and have the knowledge to create and develop it, not just consume it. A generation of young people who are tech literate is fundamental. Bringing computing into primary school classrooms was a landmark step, but we need to do more to enable teachers to teach it."

Schools Minister Nick Gibb added that the government had spent more than 4.5 million over the past three years to help computing teachers prepare young people for the rapidly-changing jobs market and "BT's commitment can only help us progress further."

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