Hill House School, Doncaster Visit – 24 January 2020

On 24 Friday January 2020, we travelled to Doncaster to visit Hill House School, as we continue to celebrate the role that bedroom programmers of the 1980s played in bringing Britain into the computing age.

We received a delightful welcome from teachers and pupils, as we took them through a time travel journey of the UK’s computing heritage.

Gary introduces pupils to 8-bit home computers of the 1980s including Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and BBC Micro

Cannot recommend The Code Show highly enough, this could be the answer to getting your SLT, colleagues, and pupils of all ages and gender excited about computing!

After finding our about The Code Show I contacted Gary who runs it, and booked the show to visit my school on Friday last week for the day. Our Y11’s and U6th pupils have all recently finished their mock exams, so this seemed like the ideal time to have the show as a bit of a treat . .

Pong was one of the earliest home video games available from 1974, essentially turning the TV from a passive medium to an interactive one

This was without doubt and by a country mile the best investment from my budget that I’ve ever made in 25 years of being Head of Computing/IT. Gary arrived early as planned in his van, and brought some of his huge collection of (working) computers and technology from the home-computing boom year’s of the 70s 80s and 90s.

My first computer was a ZX81 when I was 11 (in 1981), and I progressed to a Vic 20 and Commodore 64. Well – these were all there fully operational and ready to code with and play games – remember Chucky Egg, Lemmings, Donkey Kong, Frogger, 3D Monster Maze and Street Fighter? They were all there plus many more to play.

A selection of mobile and car phones from the 1980s, along with home telephones including a GPO model from the 1970s

I planned for children from every class from Y7 to Y13 to come and have a session with this historical computing technology, even some of our Y5 and Y6s came along. Gary worked for 20 years in the areospace industry and is now a delivering the computing curriculum in his primary school so he was able to expertly explain the technology to the children and get them using the machines – funnily enough many found his type-writer as fascinating as anything else. He even brought his Sinclair C5 along and children and teachers had great fun riding it around the hall . .

The Amstrad PCW series was first introduced in 1985, PCW, short for ‘Personal Computer Word-processor’ was aimed at home office and wordprocessing markets

The excitement and buzz around the school was palpable, even our deputy head got all excited and reminisced about playing Hungry Horace on his Spectrum back in the day. It wasn’t all about games, there was so much to see and do.

The whole school are now talking about the day, Gary was amazing and worked with the children solidly from 9am to 4pm without a break.

Our Sinclair C5 battery powered electric vehicle always generates some good interest on our school visits

Boys, girls, teachers and all staff had such an amazing day. For about the same cost as I’ve previously paid for a day’s INSET, this has put computing at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the school. Thank you Gary!

Check out the web site and book the show while you can – you won’t regret it!

(I am not affiliated to the code show in any way)​

Mr Daren Craddock (Head of Computing), Hill House School, Doncaster

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