Belfast Telegraph

Go Berserk schools scheme teaches young children skills in computing and the Tele's helping

By Laura Abernethy

Around 1,000 IT jobs in Northern Ireland cannot be filled - but two Belfast men have a solution.

Northern Ireland-based Go Berserk produces books and resources for children as young as eight to teach them computer programming.

The award-winning books and website can help children build their own websites and develop skills to allow them to become the next Mark Zuckerberg.

Starting on Wednesday, the Belfast Telegraph is giving away supplements based on the award-winning books to get children coding.

Ian Simons, a lecturer at Stranmillis College, and Gareth McAleese, a developer with Allstate, came up with the idea for Go Berserk in 2011 as they believed children could and should learn coding languages.

Gareth said: "We found that every child was able to do the coding and really actually enjoyed it. There was no child that was not able to do it."

The programme also helped children who often struggled with other aspects of school. Gareth added: "The children in the class who were behind in many other subjects were actually the best at coding. They became the experts in the class, probably for the first time ever in their lives."

Markethill High School has been using the programme for its Year 8 students for the past three years and are now seeing great results.

ICT co-ordinator Dawn McMaster explained: "We've found it really beneficial to our pupils now who are going into GCSE classes because they have that background knowledge of HTML.

"Part of the GCSE course is to produce a website so instead of using standard packages, our children have been able to marry the two together to enhance what they do."

"It's all about logical thinking. That ties in with English where they have to sequence things, as well as maths and science.

"Our kids also found that they have to be very accurate. One little mistake can stop it working. They had to learn to be careful, which transfers into other academic subjects. It helps in lots of areas."

There are fears that Northern Ireland is falling behind.

"England and Wales have seen the need for coders and people with high-level computing skills.

"Those are where the jobs are in Northern Ireland. We have many jobs that can't be filled because we don't have the people with the skills."

Belfast Telegraph

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