Posted on April 26, 2018 by staff

Coding education ‘nowhere near where it should be’


The entrepreneur behind a new tech start-up which wants to change the way kids learn how to code says coding education is “not anywhere near” good enough to match growing demand.

James Downes is the co-founder and CEO of Maker Life, which develops build-and-code computer kits to address the underserved market of children, parents and teachers who are new to coding.

Each kit uses either Raspberry Pi or BBC micro:bit single-board computers and everything is plug-and-play.

“There’s a huge and growing demand for children to learn how to do programming – at the same time there’s actually not many ways that parents, children and teachers can have access to low-cost, fun and easy ways to get them into coding,” Downes told BusinessCloud.

Downes became familiarised with computer programming through his first venture, Cable Power Ltd, a provider of electronic, power and single-board computing solutions which he sold to Stadium Group Plc for £750,000 last year.

The business provided bespoke cable and power solutions for companies, including the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

“We had this real insight into the great things that single-board computing organisations like Raspberry Pi and micro:bit are doing,” he said.

“But we also got lots of feedback from customers that the solutions out there were expecting a prior level of knowledge – they were being sold to techies and people who aren’t new to programming.

“The majority of us have never done coding and it’s just a really alien concept so we saw a real opportunity to bridge that gap in the market.”

Downes says there’s lots of evidence out there that suggests coding will be the next blue-collar job.

“It’ll become so normal to need programming that it’ll become part of our everyday life – but coding education at the moment is not anywhere near where it should be to match that growing demand,” he said.

“It’s crucial that children learn that from a young age – and the only way that’s going to happen is if parents and teachers have the confidence and resources to be able to tackle it.”

Maker Life is currently looking to raise an investment of £150,000 through equity crowdfunding website Crowdcube, which will be used to continue the company’s growth and expansion plans for this year and beyond.

“We’re already supplying our kits in different languages and we’d like to do more of that,” Downes said.

“A lot of solutions out there are just in English, which obviously means that the appeal and uptake of those products is limited so we’ve already translated a variety of kits for Nordic languages.

“We’re hoping to turn over at least £5m in the next three years and to put our kits in the hands of children across the world.”