The impact of Apple technologies and the Everyone Can Code curriculum on raising standards in Numeracy in the Northern Ireland curriculum.

6 Jun 2024

Michael O’Kane, Principal of St Mary’s Glenview Primary School in Maghera, Northern Ireland.

When I was appointed Headteacher in my school I immediately set about developing an understanding of where exactly the school was at in relation to standards, staff confidence, infrastructure and achievements of the children. A look at the recent data of the children’s achievements indicated that they were achieving in line with the Northern Ireland Average in Mathematics. However, a deeper look at the data indicated that the majority of classes were achieving below the NI Average in the area of problem solving. Discussions with teachers reinforced this.

Further discussions with teachers indicated that they felt the school wasn’t equipped to develop problem solving across the curriculum. This was something that I’d picked up on early in my tenure. With my own background in using Apple technologies to develop essential learning skills, we discussed the possibilities of iPads and coding resources in an initiative to develop problem solving across the curriculum. We visited a number of schools who were using the resources effectively in amazing ways across the curriculum. My staff really could see how coding could be used to develop the children’s understanding across a range of curricular areas.


It was really important that staff were on board with how we were going to move forward with developing this area. Teamwork and trust were at a premium as we collectively set targets and actions to ensure the continuity and progression of learning and teaching of problem solving across all year groups. My governors also accompanied us on school visits and were on board when we decided that an appropriate percentage of our budget needed to be used to ensure a top quality infrastructure, essential for effective learning and teaching. This included iPads, Spheros, Drones, revamp of WiFi and substitute cover for teacher training  and planning of effective lessons across the curriculum. With this in place we set the ambitious but realistic target of ensuring that children were comfortable in applying key elements of learning across the curriculum.


Immediately there was a buzz around the school and the community. The best indicator of an effective initiative are the children in the school and it was great to see their excitement as we began introducing coding across the school. It is important for pupils to have a voice in a school and the introduction of our new Digital Leaders team ensured this. This team was instrumental as they were not only role models for children throughout the school, they also assisted teachers in introducing coding activities in the classroom. They often came up with their own ideas on how to extend coding across the curriculum. Staff development was key as we looked at the integration of coding within the curriculum.

In initial staff surveys, teachers indicated that they knew coding was important, however they didn’t feel confident in teaching coding. We immediately set about drawing up an operational plan, timetabling bespoke coaching and mentoring sessions looking at how we could integrate coding into our classrooms. Interestingly, as I was part of a local cluster of principals, they indicated that they would like their teachers to take part in these coaching and mentoring sessions, meaning that we had a dedicated, county wide network of teachers dedicated to developing coding in their schools. Teachers got a first hand look at how they could use Apple’s Everyone Can Code curriculum in their classrooms.


Early Years teachers explored Get Started with Code 1 and 2, using apps like Tynker and Swift Code in puzzles that developed teamwork, problem solving and critical thinking. Key Stage 2 teachers began planning how they could introduce offline coding activities from Learn to Code 1. They worked together to plan a range of activities using core apps. They planned activities developing functions and for loops with GarageBand, bringing these coding concepts alive in music. This meant that children were more confident in exploring these concepts when completing the puzzles in Swift Playgrounds, which quickly became one the children’s favourite apps. We were able to use a wide range of superb activities from the Everyone Can Code curriculum to aid in the development of problem solving and critical thinking. The children particularly enjoy The Code Machine Playground as they can work together using function and loops while thinking logically and even creativity to fully restore their own code machine.


Applying coding skills and concepts to real life contexts was a very important step along our journey. Myself and the teachers sat down once we felt the children were confident with the new coding concepts and planned how we were going to add in the use of connected devices in the classroom. This was a tremendous opportunity to continue to develop coding in a really fun, engaging way across the curriculum. We looked at our thematic learning. Very quickly we were saw ways that we could uses robots like Sphero with the iPad in the classroom. In a wonderful activity, our early years children designed and made their own mini beasts, then recreated the movements of the bugs by placing them on top of the Spheros and programming them to move around the classroom and playground.


In another amazing lesson, our 9, 10 and 11 year olds learned about recording air resistance with code, Sphero and iPads. This was excellent as it had problem solving, teamwork, critical thinking and coding at the centre of an activity that linked art, communication, mathematics, art and physics! As a teacher it was amazing to take a step back and observe the children working together to design their own unique parachutes, calculating the weight of the parachute and Sphero, ensuring that they could carry out a fair test of each parachute.

As a leader it’s important to have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in a school, particularly when it comes to the children’s achievements. It’s important to look at a number of ways to develop areas in the curriculum like problem solving in line with the school’s targets. With so many amazing activities happening in the classroom it was also important to ensure that all children’s abilities were catered for. Using data at hand we identified children who were underachieving in the area of problem solving. We ran early morning and lunchtime clubs aimed at developing an active learning approach to coding and mathematics across the curriculum. The children gained experience in solving specific problems in Tynker and Swift Playgrounds. We tested the children before and after each block of problem solving clubs, which fed in to the overall picture of pupil achievement that we monitored in May every year.


At the heart of every successful initiative are parents. There was a buzz in the school with the new approaches introduced in coding and problem solving and it was important to ensure that parents were up to date with ways that they could support their children at home. We ran parents sessions specifically looking at how they could use a range of coding apps on iPad in a fun and engaging way at home. End of Year questionnaires indicated that 94% of parents felt well supported in developing coding at home and also said that they were amazed at the children’s newly acquired skills.


Any school leader will tell you that there is always a ‘why’ behind every initiative. At the review point of any new development is always the impact and specifically the impact on the children. Analysis of End of Year Data was very revealing, and very pleasing. Problem solving across every year of the school was now above the Northern Ireland average. This was absolutely fantastic. Teachers were extremely proud of the achievements of their pupils and they were also very satisfied with their own role in developing coding across the school. In discussions and formal questionnaires 100% of teachers in the school felt more confident in teaching coding across the school.


For further details about introducing the iPad to the classroom and the Everyone Can Code curriculum contact the Academia team via or 01992 703900.

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