Aim: To transform the Design Technology (DT) Curriculum at Key Stage 3 to raise the profile and uptake of STEM subjects in the Sixth Form and beyond.
Background: Pupils are very able and reflect the diverse and multicultural population of the West Midlands, but few apply for STEM subjects at university.
Year 1: A new scheme of work was introduced for Year 7 DT supported by a pupil-friendly booklet to consolidate and extend students’ learning, whilst providing opportunities for reflection on progress and skills developed. Projects included building kites and egg-mobiles and a link was established with the Dyson Educational Partnership. The removal of a formal assessment element meant that students could experiment and explore without fear of being judged on their outcomes.
Students from Years 7, 9 and 12 attended the Lego League competition event at the University of Birmingham and reported on their experience in a school assembly, the school newsletter and a BBC radio interview. The reflection section of the booklet completed by pupils provided excellent feedback. This was evaluated and used to inform improvements and amendments to the scheme for the following year.
Year 2: Building on Year 7 successes, Year 8 projects included: ‘How stretchy is a jelly snake?’, building a model of a town using geometrical constructions, simple machines, constructing a machine to project a multi-link cube as far as possible, discussion and investigation into perceptions of and the history of manufacturing, including a look at cutting-edge technology (3-D and 4-D printing and augmented reality), production line techniques for making Christmas decorations and the aerodynamics of paper aeroplanes.
A curriculum was introduced which also provided a six-week STEM enrichment course to each student in Year 12. The course included: space travel, nanotechnology, making machines, ethical considerations of scientific development, evolution, health risks of mobile technology and the benefits of modern communication technology. Sixth Form students were in regular, direct contact with the STEM ambassador based at Network Rail. A residential at the University of Birmingham’s School of Electrical, Electronic and Systems Engineering was attended by the Sixth Form STEM ambassadors, who also successfully ran a well-attended STEM Club for the lower school.
Evidence: Pupil questionnaires, staff and parental feedback.
Impact: In addition to the curricular content, other huge benefits to students included a noticeable development in problem-solving skills and team building and a marked improvement in the capacity of very able learners to take risks, to accept setbacks and to adapt practice accordingly. The emphasis was consciously on self-development, ambitious thinking and risk taking. Parental feedback was unanimously positive. Staff feedback pointed to an enhanced awareness of the uses and potential of engineering and technology, along with augmented pupil and staff enjoyment. The three STEM ambassadors in Year 13 were conditionally accepted onto Engineering courses at universities for 2016.
Reflections: A key factor in success was the appointment of an effective STEM coordinator who enhanced the links with universities and local industry partners. The facilities, resources, expertise and support available from partners in industry should not be underestimated.
Contact: Annie Gouldsworthy, Assistant Headteacher, firstname.lastname@example.org