A UK start-up has jumped ahead of BBC's Micro:bit, Google's Project Bloks and other educational microcomputer kits by developing the first Raspberry Pi-based operating system to receive a stamp of approval from a UK schools exam board.

London company Pi-Top received the endorsement from leading awarding body Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR), effectively pushing its custom PiTopOS operating system (and associated devices) as the go-to teaching-aid for over 1,840 British schools looking to help children get to grips with OCR's GSCE Computer Science syllabus and learn how to code in a practical way.

PiTopOS simplifies elements of Raspberry Pi's Raspbian OS in a way designed for educators in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, with web browsing, emails, text documents and even video games all part of the start-up's suite.

Said suite includes Pi-Top's "CEEDuniverse", an educational science-fiction MMORPG game where visual programming puzzles are solved to make progress and the story lore is based on computing skills.

The game aims to teach basic coding concepts in a "gamified environment" and supports conversion to Python code. Also included is "pi-topCODER", a user interface that gives access to Raspberry Pi resources and worksheets and presents learning goals that update in real-time.

"We set out to create an educational tool that can teach the next generation of students the skills they need, to prepare for the jobs of the future, in a way that's affordable and accessible for everyone," said Pi-Top co-founder Jesse Lozano.

"Our content fits within the specifications of the OCR GCSE Computer Science Curriculum, meaning that for the first time students can work towards a qualification within the confines of the OS itself."

The endorsement will likely be a major boon for the London start-up which started as a simple student project in 2014 to create a 3D printed Raspberry Pi laptop. The company has since created a full "build it yourself RaspberryPi laptop" utilising its own custom OS and a modular desktop PC designed for the classroom called "pi-topCEED".

Raspberry Pi microcomputers have gradually been introduced into UK schools to help STEM subject teachers. In 2013, 15,000 Raspberry Pi Model Bs were distributed for free in a Google-funded initiative. One million Raspberry Pi-like BBC Micro:bits were also sent to schools in 2016.

Pi-Top CEEDuniverse game
An image of CEEDuniverse running on Pi-Top's modular laptop Pi-Top