Community outreach with Digital Schoolhouse

By Chris Lovell. Posted

Digital Schoolhouse’s workshops reduce the gap in confidence between girls and boys

Originally published in Hello World 20: Systems and networks, Jan 2023. All information true at the time of original publishing.

My school has recently been accepted as a Lead School member of the Digital Schoolhouse programme ( Digital Schoolhouse is a not-for-profit programme which uses play-based learning to engage primary-school pupils and teachers in the UK with computing. It offers free workshops, activities, and events, led by its community of Lead Schools. The resources are rooted in the English national curriculum for computing, and aim to equip pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world.

Joining the Digital Schoolhouse programme, with its focus on continuing professional development, has enabled me to develop my own teaching style and connect with computing teachers nationwide. The programme has also helped me bridge the gap between industry and education, with its strong focus on educating pupils about the careers available in the UK games industry.

Play-based learning

Creative workshops are at the heart of the programme. They are delivered by the Lead School together with the class teacher from the participating primary school. In my school, lower-secondary pupils also support the workshop delivery, giving them an opportunity to discover and learn together with young people from various communities in our local area.

In my conversations with primary teachers, some have mentioned that they find programming challenging to teach. It’s not a skill that these teachers necessarily experienced as part of their own education or training, and they have found that becoming a proficient coder takes time and persistence. I also remember my own fears when first training and the wide variety of IT problems that can occur in a lesson, no matter how well prepared we feel we are.

I think this is probably why some of the most popular workshops are Crazy Mazes, Get with the Algo-rhythm, and Just Dance with the Algorithm, which all offer creative and fun ways of teaching programming and coding. The Just Dance with the Algorithm one-day workshop is a particular favourite with pupils. Learners begin by creating and planning their own dance moves using pen and paper. They then refine and test out their moves by dancing together in groups. In the second half of the workshop, pupils take their learning into the Scratch programming environment, where they create sprites that dance in the sequences they have created. At the end of a recent workshop, one parent told me that their child had enjoyed the workshop so much that they were going to continue working on their algorithm at home.

Digital Schoolhouse’s research has shown that pupils who participate in their workshops become much more confident with coding, and grow their understanding of computer networks and of how to be safe online ( This research has also shown that the gap between boys’ and girls’ confidence in each of these areas is narrowed following a workshop. In my experience, pupils find the workshops enjoyable, and excited pupils consistently ask me to return for a follow-up. I have observed that pupils’ confidence with coding grows during a workshop, and pupils are able to explain their algorithms to me and the rest of the class by the end of the day.

Being a Lead School

As a Lead School in the programme, we receive regular training from leading computing education practitioners through Ingenuity Days. In our induction workshop with the team earlier this year, we were privileged to attend a training session by researcher Paul Curzon on semantic wave theory and its application to the workshops and to computing teaching in general. In the training session, Paul led an activity in which we applied semantic wave theory to an imagined workshop session. We discovered that the approach could help us improve explanations by unpacking and repacking abstract concepts such as algorithms or variables, and making these concrete by associating them with everyday activities that learners are familiar with. At a future Ingenuity Day, we will hear how we can better prepare aspiring game makers for a career in the games industry, and learn to use some of the latest game software, such as the Construct 3 web-based game development engine (

I believe that being a member of the programme has given me the tools to be more creative in my own teaching. I also feel a sense of reward for supporting local primary-school teachers in delivering the computing curriculum effectively. In time, I know that the programme will enable me to become a better teacher, by observing the variety of teaching and learning approaches adopted in our local community, and by being connected to some of the leading computing teachers across the UK. I encourage computing teachers, coordinators, and leaders at primary and secondary schools to find out more about the programme today!

You can find out more about how to join the programme at or by emailing the team directly at

About Digital Schoolhouse

Digital Schoolhouse is delivered by the UK games industry trade body (UKIE) and backed by the video games industry and the UK government. Sponsors of the programme include Nintendo, PlayStation, EA, and SEGA. Through its 79 Lead Schools nationwide, the Digital Schoolhouse programme has reached over 130,000 pupils and over 11,000 teachers since its creation in 2014.

Tips for applying to become a lead school

When applying for the Digital Schoolhouse programme, ensure you can:

  • Describe how becoming a Digital Schoolhouse will support your school in developing innovative computing provision

  • Describe the existing resources your school has access to that will help you deliver the programme

  • Describe your existing access to your local community of primary schools

  • Show awareness of your strengths for establishing a network of schools

  • Describe the challenges you anticipate when establishing your school as a Digital Schoolhouse


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