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Google descends on Hampstead primary schools to find the next Bill Gates

Kids as young as nine are being taught how to code at Christ Church Primary School in Hampstead. Picture: Nigel Sutton Kids as young as nine are being taught how to code at Christ Church Primary School in Hampstead. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Friday, February 7, 2014
10:16 AM

Employees from global tech giant Google have joined forces with teachers in Hampstead as they begin their search for the next Bill Gates through after-school coding clubs.

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Pupils at Christ Church Primary School were asked to put their hands up if they had to teach their parents how to use technology. Picture: Nigel SuttonPupils at Christ Church Primary School were asked to put their hands up if they had to teach their parents how to use technology. Picture: Nigel Sutton

In a bid to develop the next generation of computer geniuses, some of the best and brightest from the £160billion firm have been teaching nine-to 11-year-olds at Christ Church Primary School how to make their own apps, webpages and games.

Run in partnership with Camden Council, the after-school clubs are being repeated across all 41 primary schools in the borough – threatening to further widen the gap between children and their parents when it comes to computer know-how.

Dominik Grewe, 27, a software engineer at Google, gave pupils their second lesson last Thursday. “Just like physics, this is giving the children a basic understanding of how their world works,” he said.

“Computers have undoubtedly 
become a key tool in all our lives and we hope these classes encourage people to study the science behind them.

“It can be a well-paid vocation, is certainly future proof and can be very rewarding. But it’s quite astonishing how much the kids already knew 
before we came here. By the end of the second session they were actually teaching me how to do things.”

The pupils are no strangers to having to teach their elders. The digital revolution and the arrival of smartphones and iPads has prompted one of the rare moments in history where youngsters not even in their teens are teaching their parents how the world works.

One 11-year-old, who created his own game website so his friends could get around parental controls, said his parents “didn’t seem to know much”.

“I teach my dad, who then teaches my mum,” he said. “They never grew up with technology like we have and like a lot of my friends, my parents will always be coming to me for help.

“I love computers and would love to work somewhere like Google. We’re all learning really useful and fun skills with these classes.”

With Google aware that coding has traditionally been seen as a male-only enterprise, the company is keen to make sure an extra effort was made to enrol as many girls as boys.

But teacher Sarah Shaw, 38, said there was no need. “Girls have flocked to it so we didn’t need to adjust the class at all. The kids love it,” she said.

“Subjects like maths and English are traditionally seen as the most important for young people – and this will continue – but it’s clear learning about computers is essential for most jobs today,” she added.

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