Formal School Learning for Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4

KS3 starts in Year 7 & KS4 starts at secondary level education with year 8.  Prior to this level children are expected to spend at least 1 hour a week learning about Technology and although this is compulsory for Primary Schools, we currently have no curriculum.

Unfortunately this means many children don’t arrive in secondary education with a wide knowledge of tech options.  To help, many secondary level schools make some ICT learning compulsory at KS3 (year 8 – 9)and then offer optional GCSE’s (year 10 -11).

We’ve listed current GCSE options at school, as well as some helpful (and fun!) resources afterwards – but please see the Adult, Vocational & Self Learning pages too as they also include formal education courses for adults and can be helpful to support & encourage pupils while taking formal education at school.

GCSE’s offered in NI that include Digital Learning & Technology:

  • Computer Science (examination boards include EDUQAS/OCR/AQA)
  • Computing (OCR)
  • ICT (CCEA Short course: when not previously taught at KS3)
  • ICT (CCEA Full Course)
  • Applied ICT (CCEA)
  • Digital Technology / Multimedia (pupils choose between 2 streams: programming or multimedia CCEA)
  • Technology & Design (CCEA)
  • Space Science Technology (CCEA / Level 2 QCF – equivalent of GCSE )
  • Business & Communication Systems (CCEA)
  • Moving Image Arts (CCEA)


Text Based Coding Websites for KS3 age onwards:

Many of the following examples can actually start at Key Stage 2 age range depending on the child (typically from about 8 years old onwards) so we have linked to them from the KS2 page.  However, we encourage ANY age group to try out these resources if they like them and remember these are guides only.


Code Combat almost deserves its own category!  We LOVE this game – yes game – that allows free text based programming in Python, Javascript, Coffeescript (like Scratch) and Lua.  These elements are free and if you like it you can buy more access/levels and more languages. 


Codesters is a coding panel environment for children to make games and apps using Python.  Some courses are free.  Can be clunky (or our computer had a bad day!) But we love Python for gaming.


Thimble is a code editor that sits in your browser based on Brackets but with inbuilt hints & tips (sometimes lesson plans for teachers) to help by self learning.  You can remix projects which is a handy way to learn. Like most you need to set up an account to publish but it’s open source and we love it!


Khan Academy uses interactive text based & media to walk you through activities and challenges. It’s free and uses JS.  It isn’t as attractive visually but it does have good solid instructions for children to work along to and a nice points scheme.



MIT App Inventor may not look too attractive when you first visit but the interface is clean.  Guidance is likely required as it’s a hybrid between drag & drop and text based, but also because tutorials aren’t built into the interface.   So this is perhaps for older KS2, or KS3 upwards unless you want to dedicate a longer series of classes.


Codecademy has a LOT of text based coding courses and activities for KS2 onwards. It uses interactive classes to teach HTML CSS JS JQUERY Python PHP and APIs.  Both free & paid classes.  Some resources will go soon but  lesson plans can be accessed through google classrooms ahead.


Code School by Pluralsight runs on the high standards you would expect for their teaching but most courses are not free.  Covering the same general area including Ruby & SQL, Git Elixir – everything you need for Web Devs.


Alice is, like Kodu ( ), a 3D animation/gaming drag & drop environment.  Alice 3 has recently been released with more tutorials and lesson plans.  It may be difficult for some younger KS2 aged children.  It is free and requires downloading.  Alice codes in Java.


QUICK BASE was recommended by a wonderful boy called Noah through his mum Josephine.  This is a real gem of a site.  It links tutorials in Python, JS, Ruby, HTML, CSS and more.  Check it out – there’s a lot to play around with!


Free Code Camp is exactly that.  It’s a free online community teaching a curriculum in HTML, CSS & JS that attracts millions worldwide and allows you to gain free certification while building apps for nonprofits.  It does require commitment but also covers libraries, API’s, security and quality assurance modules.




Coding/STEM Clubs, Programs & Projects in NI:

Some on the list are charities and run free clubs, others are companies who have set fees.  It is really important to mention that some of these initiatives are ALWAYS looking for volunteers to expand and reach more children.  All training is painless (!) and incredibly quick – but excellent – and will be given by them.  You can find out more details or contact them directly by following appropriate links.


Hive Hackers: Classroom based.  PwC Belfast created the Hive, run by the passionate Narelle Allen, Digital Executive.  ‘Hive Hackers’ offers Primary schools interactive coding and peer collaborations in their classrooms.


Hive ‘Tech Academy’ works with 11 to 14 year olds on STEM subjects to design and develop apps. Because PWC emphasise the purpose of app development, they also teach basic business and financial skills. Again, run within school classrooms.


Code Club has been around for some time, running excellent classroom sessions and after schools clubs across the UK.  Darran Bayliss coordinates for RoI/NI and we are seeing a real growth in the number of 8 – 13 age group clubs focusing on Raspberry Pi. There are hundreds of clubs currently running covering Scratch, HTML, CSS, Python as well as the new Scratch 3 which now allows for lots of Raspberry Pi maker projects (e.g. Microbits and robotics integration with programming).


 We currently have 2 Dojo’s in Belfast, this one is run in connection with BMC at their Titanic campus across the school year.  Dojo’s are very popular so spaces fill quickly for the Saturday.  Dojo’s are open to anyone under 18 but please check individual host’s policy for younger children to be accompanied.


This Dojo is run in Farset Labs by their team.  Farset are probably the longest running Belfast Tech Hub charity and Hacker Space based at Weavers Court.  They are involved in just about everything tech across Belfast on some level!  As a charity their events are typically free (such as the Dojo).  They actually put on quite a few events that usually ask for donations.


Here we’ve linked to the CoderDojo Foundation page for all clubs across Northern Ireland. After speaking with Champions from the Foundation we are genuinely impressed with their latest initiatives for girls and the success of these clubs among both boys & girls. There are upcoming training events to strengthen and grow these clubs across NI which is great news, especially as Code Clubs are usually held by a school, but Dojo’s can be set up literally anywhere completely independently.


Northern Ireland’s biggest coding event for teens – Kainos CodeCamp returns to Belfast from 16 – 27 July and this year we are doing things a bit differently! STEM students can now attend either the Foundation course or the Advanced course depending on your knowledge and experience.


The Northern Ireland Raspberry Jam runs on the 2nd Saturday of every month (excluding July/August) throughout the year at Queens Uni. They are free as well and involve new workshops/activities each month. Details –  You can also add our provisional future Jams calendar to yours by clicking here (or simply view it here).


 Bring IT On NI run academies through the BMC E-Campus (which looks Very impressive!) funded by the Dept of Economy in partnership with the larger Tech companies.  These are formally accredited & intensive training apprenticeships for F&HE applicants, including graduate conversions.



 Sentinus are a charity who also sell STEM activities and events days.  They have a very well rounded approach to STEM and some of the programs and camps look like lots of fun for both primary and post-primary ages.  They also work with Councils to have secondary level pupils gain paid/unpaid placements in companies.



 W5 are the STEM UK hub for NI.  They provide STEM Ambassadors  to visit Primary & post Primary schools and existing clubs, offering give workshops, talks and experience of all things STEM!  They also offer financial & resource support for schools/clubs who (wish to) engage in STEM activities and set up their own club.


WWC Belfast currently provide talks, events & careers advice for all ages.  They are now setting up coding & tech clubs, set to roll out in 2018/2019.  Some programs are for females only and others mixed.  The first course will be an introduction to the GO language. You can find out more about this and others here:


Generation Innovation: Re-Imagining Work Experience (a Connect Programme by Catalyst involving Design Thinking where students assess and discuss innovative solutions for various prospective employers.





Some Resources for Leader, Educators or Making Your Own Lesson Plans:


Using Python for GCSE website

Python for Fun

(Studio) Code: overview of lesson plans with examples of lessons

CAS Barefoot Overview of Computational Thinking

BBC Bitesize: KS3 Computer Science, Design & Digital

BBC Bitesize GCSE

BBC Digital Technology (Compulsory)

Digital schoolhouse | STEM

CAS London: Secondary Resources

Craig and Dave (teacher resources)

Python Resources

Mr Fraser (GCSE Computer Science resources)

Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything: Computational Thinking

Share My Lesson: Computational Thinking Lesson Plans & Resources

STEM GCSE Computer Science Resources

Google for Education: Computational Thinking Resources

Hello World Magazine for Educators