St Faith’s Implement Innovative Plans to Inspire and Equip Next Generation of UK Engineers
St Faith’s has become the first school in the UK to tackle the nationwide shortage of engineers by incorporating Engineering into our core curriculum for primary aged pupils.
Enjoying high-profile backing for the concept from Professor Dame Ann Dowling (President of the Royal Academy of Engineering) and the James Dyson Foundation, the school has developed a robust engineering curriculum in consultation with Cambridge University’s Department of Engineering, with additional input from international engineering companies based in Cambridge, and in accordance with the Royal Academy of Engineering guidelines. Pupils aged between 7 and 13 now benefit from weekly lessons, delivered by a specialist teacher as part of our core timetable.
“By timetabling Engineering within the core curriculum at St Faith’s, as a distinct subject in its own right, we are opening up aspirational career possibilities for girls and boys from the age of seven upwards,” explains Nigel Helliwell, Headmaster. “We had to devise our own schemes of work – with expert support – because an engineering curriculum for primary-age pupils simply did not exist.”
He continues: “If we are going to address the national shortfall of engineers, we have to begin by enabling children to understand and explore what engineering is all about: it’s the practical application of maths, science and computing knowledge in a context that requires imagination, innovation and resourcefulness.”
Professor Dame Ann Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, agrees: “I am delighted that St Faith’s is introducing Engineering into the curriculum for all pupils in Years 3-8. It is a great initiative and can enable the girls and boys to apply the things they learn in science, maths and computing in really exciting, creative ways. Engineering is about being creative and helping to solve problems that are important to society, from sustainable energy, to developing new medicines, from microchips to megastructures. Engineering careers provide a way of making a difference to the world – and getting well paid while doing so.”
Research shows that most children have a rough idea of their future career path by the age of 10, yet engineering is not normally studied as a subject in its own right until GCSE. Out of 3,000 post-graduates currently studying engineering in the UK, only 50 are British and more than 80% come from countries outside the EU[i]. Although engineering accounts for a quarter (24.9%) of UK turnover[ii], there is a current annual shortfall of 55,000 workers with engineering skills. In addition, only 8.7 per cent of professional engineers in the UK are women. The dearth of female engineers is a challenge right around the world, but UK figures are the lowest in Europe[iii].
“Britain needs many more engineers and we simply can’t get them,” confirms Sir James Dyson, whose £8m building is nearing completion at Cambridge University’s Department of Engineering. “Like St Faith’s, the Dyson Foundation is addressing this problem by promoting high quality engineering education. The more primary schools that teach Engineering, whether as part of the ongoing timetable like St Faith’s or as standalone projects like those offered by the Dyson Foundation, the more successful we will be in nurturing the UK’s next generation of talented and creative engineers.”
The new engineering curriculum here at St Faith’s is delivered by, Susan Passmore, an engineering graduate who has worked in the industry and has taught Science at secondary level. Engineering lessons at the school involve pupils working in project teams, rather than individually, to best nurture the collaborative skills required by a 21st Century workforce. The ‘Design Make Evaluate’ stages involved in every project encourage the children to reflect on their progress, as they look for solutions to global humanitarian and sustainability concerns.
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