Posted on September 14, 2016 by staff

Fears school budget cuts could hurt BBC micro:bit success


A tech MD and school governor fears that the success of the “mini marvel” BBC micro:bit could be tempered by budget cuts.

Adam Stone is managing director of Exeter-based Rokk Media, which develops mobile apps, software and websites.

He said any initiative to fire up the imagination of young people and get them to engage with technology has to be a positive thing.

Hailing the device as a “mini marvel”, he says: “As someone old enough to remember the BBC Micro, another worthy initiative, I also remember how we only had one in the school and nobody short of maths genius level ever got to touch it.

“With this initiative focused on being as inclusive as possible it certainly feels like that issue has been addressed.

“Ultimately the success of the micro:bit will depend on how much resource and time individual schools can devote.

“Sadly we live in a time when schools are taking a battering on many fronts and that may prove to be the biggest challenge to the project.”

Mark Thomas, chief executive of Ipswich-based app developer Coderus, has used one of the devices with his son.

“BBC micro:bit is a great way to engage pupils,” he says. “With my son we used the micro:bit to make a badge for him to wear, and got it to interact and flash while he wore it.

“Micro:bit lowers the bar greatly compared to its bigger brother, Raspberry Pi, and is an excellent addition to my son’s pencil case learning tools.”

Dan Sandhu, chairman and chief executive of education technology company Digital Assess, based in London, says: “It’s great that children can have hands-on experience of coding with the micro:bit, especially because the majority of children will already be using technology at home and it’s a good discipline to have.

“This is just part of the puzzle, though, and it would be even more useful if schools also concentrated on the other skills we know people need for the future, such as team building, occupational skills and leadership so we can make sure employers are receiving a well-qualified workforce.”

ARM engineers believe schoolchildren armed with micro:bits will “redefine what is impossible” after learning to code.

Meanwhile Tim Dempsey, a venture capital dealmaker specialising in technology, set up a coding school in Salford 15 months ago to encourage men from the Jewish community into employment.

He says you are never too young to learn coding skills, and he has already started teaching his five-year-old son.

“I work with tech companies that find it very hard to find developers, even developers that aren’t great can find jobs at the moment so rather than trying to be another accountant or lawyer, training yourself to code at any point in your life can be very important,” he says.

“Developers are the people that kick-start start-ups and can solve a lot of the problems we struggle to do operationally.

“To get hands-on with this technology early on is really important and schemes like this can really engage those children who are not necessarily academic, to give them long-term skills and make them feel included.”