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Coding at ABN AMRO

ABN AMRO Foundation has joined forces with StartupAmsterdam to introduce the Coding for Amsterdam programme in schools. Coding for Amsterdam aims to equip primary school pupils in Amsterdam with the crucial digital skills they’ll need to get a job later in life. Ronilla Snellen is the director of Stichting CodeUur (or the Coding Hour Foundation) and talent lead with StartupAmsterdam. Here she talks about the collaboration between StartupAmsterdam and ABN AMRO Foundation.

We were thrilled to be able to donate fifteen Dell laptops each to eighty schools, plus one free inspiration class. Ronilla Snellen Ronilla Snellen Founder and director of Stichting CodeUur and talent lead with StartupAmsterdam

Creating a better ecosystem for start-ups

The Coding for Amsterdam programme is a product of the StartupAmsterdam action programme, organised by the Municipality of Amsterdam’s Economic Affairs Department. Its aim is to improve the ecosystem for start-ups in the city. If start-ups are going to base themselves here, they have to be able to recruit tech-savvy talent. StartupAmsterdam has taken on the challenge of cultivating young talent from an early age. Coding for Amsterdam has set itself the goal of introducing all primary school pupils in Amsterdam to computer programming, one of the vital ICT skills they’ll need to find a job later on. Preparing children now for the future means they’ll face fewer obstacles when joining the workforce.

Working with the right partners

The Coding for Amsterdam programme was keen to collaborate with stakeholders sharing the same objectives, and ABN AMRO Foundation was clearly the perfect candidate. Since they invest in innovation and talent development, collaboration proved to be the right step to take. In addition to ABN AMRO Foundation, Coding for Amsterdam works closely with businesses offering free inspiration classes in programming, such as Bomberbot, NewTechKids and CodeUur. These organisations introduce children to the basics of programming in fun classes which are meant to inspire all these young participants. The classes make up the initial phase of Coding for Amsterdam.

Supporting schools and teachers

Since partnering with ABN AMRO Foundation, the Coding for Amsterdam project has made great strides. After ABN AMRO announced it would be donating 1,200 laptops to primary schools in Amsterdam, we were able to persuade many schools to participate in the programme. This generous donation removed a significant barrier to schools participating in the project, namely a lack of quality hardware for teaching children the basics of programming. We were thrilled to be able to give eighty schools fifteen free Dell laptops each, plus a free inspiration class. Where necessary, we also provided training in computer programming to teachers.

Extra help from bank staff

During the attempt to break the Programming World Record on 14 October 2016, 11,368 Dutch schoolchildren took a computer programming class. Two groups of pupils from De Rozemarn primary school were invited to visit ABN AMRO at its location in Amsterdam-Zuidoost, which all the kids agreed was a “really cool place”. Bank staff were assigned one pupil each and together got down to business using the coding program Scratch. This one-on-one instruction let each child work through the program at his or her own pace, and there were a couple of pupils who really stood out. The children, together with their ABN AMRO instructors, even managed to break the Programming World Record!

Collaboration is the key to success

ABN AMRO Foundation is an outstanding collaborative partner. There’s a clear division of responsibilities, as the Coding for Amsterdam project shows. StartupAmsterdam liaised with the schools, while ABN AMRO and Dell made sure the laptops ended up in the classrooms. Getting all those laptops delivered on time for the World Record event was no small feat, and ABN AMRO Foundation did a fantastic job. After all, equipping fifty schools with quality hardware is a tremendous task. Unfortunately, since supplies were limited, we had to turn down several schools simply because we ran out. Nevertheless, ABN AMRO did manage at the last minute to set up a number of computers temporarily so that an additional six schools could participate and do their bit to help break the record.

Workshops for teachers

Phase two of the Coding for Amsterdam project involves training teachers in digital skills. Here, too, ABN AMRO is making a contribution. When there’s a lack of IT skills, it makes it difficult to include computer programming in the curriculum. But thanks to a financial contribution from ABN AMRO, 160 teachers have already been able to participate in a workshop on digital skills. Now they can get to work in their own classrooms without having to enlist the aid of a guest teacher.

Looking ahead

We plan to pursue our goal in 2017, ensuring that digital skills are structurally embedded in Amsterdam’s primary schools. There are still plenty of schools which need convincing of the urgency of the situation. After all, it would be a real shame if pupils at those schools fell behind their peers. That’s why we intend to continue to invest in the future, organising fun events and initiatives to attract more and more schools. We also hope that the rest of the country will follow Amsterdam’s example.


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