Clare Sutcliffe on helping kids learn to code

The co-founder and CEO of Code Club talks about teaching school pupils to program, launching worldwide clubs and blowing minds.

Web designer Clare Sutcliffe co-founded and is CEO of Code Club, a nationwide network of volunteer-led after school coding clubs for children aged nine to 11. Here, she talks teaching, launching worldwide clubs and blowing kids minds.

What's Code Club's story? What inspired you to start it?

"Code Club started out as an idea in April 2012. Linda Sandvik and I were in the process of planning a 'useful hack day' when we accidentally invented Code Club. We were inspired to start it when we realised that children weren’t being taught programming at school.

"We decided that sending programmers into school to teach what they know was a pretty simple idea and gathered a team of writers to write projects that we could give our volunteers. The idea was instantly very popular and we launched with 120 clubs in September. About 100 new clubs are born each month and we’ve just reached 800!"

Launched in April 2012, Code Club now has 800 clubs running

How did you catch the coding bug?

I'm not actually a programmer but Linda is, and she does some fantastic work. She's currently in Oslo installing arduinos into public bins to make them talk when you put rubbish in them.

My work improved massively after I’d learnt markup

"I'm a web designer and learnt markup so that I would know what I was designing for. My work improved massively after I'd learnt it and it made me feel all-powerful (probably dangerous!)."

How big is Code Club now?

"Code Club has 800 clubs at the moment so we're heading towards out first big milestone of 1,000 clubs. After that we hope to have clubs in 25 per cent of primary schools in the UK.

"We've also launched CodeClubWorld.org, which is a framework allowing people to start Code Club in their own country. Each country will need to translate our materials (via GitHub) and then offer support to volunteers in their own country. We're really excited to see what will happen!"

How do the kids react?

"The kids absolutely love it. A lot of the time our volunteers have to explain what coding is and that the computer games they play have been programmed. It blows their minds! It's amazing to watch. When they realise that they can do a similar thing (albeit at a simpler level), they just light up.

The kids absolutely love it. It blows their minds! It’s amazing to watch

"We have stand-out kids across the country, but the one that springs to my mind is Effie in London. She started Code Club in September aged 10 and she’s now confidently building her own static sites and loving it. I loved watching Adam remake Modern Warfare in Scratch too. So much fun!

Scratch is an educational programming language and multimedia authoring tool

What would you say to somebody thinking of starting a club?

"I'd say that they were an excellent human being and won't regret it. Our volunteers say it's very rewarding and the best part of their week. If you're looking for fun outside of your comfort zone then 10 excited nine-year-olds all eager to learn to code will give you just that! Please visit Code Club to find out more on how to get started."

Which apps, sites and tools make your day-to-day life possible?

"I can't live without my iPhone. I very often need to be able to react quickly to email (journalists with tight deadlines etc!). I use Tweetbot constantly as Code Club is so active on Twitter.

"I absolutely couldn’t live without TeuxDeux for listing out my tasks each day and planning the week ahead - it keeps me on the straight and narrow!

To-do app Teux Deux was designed by Swiss Miss in 2009

Who inspires you?

"Starting Code Club has been pretty intimidating at times but I love the scale of the effect we're having. I’ve learnt that the people who inspire me most are those who take on the biggest problems because they care so much about it. They aren't afraid of the obstacles or put off by the size of the problem, they just get stuck in.

The people who use the web and internet well will change the world

"The web and the internet allow us to reach so many people as well as changing attitudes, changing behaviour and kick starting people into action. The people who use the web and internet well will change the world."

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