Bohunt Education Trust makes the case for school led STEM education
Bohunt Education Trust (BET), which operates across Hampshire and West Sussex, is argu-ing loudly for schools to take the lead on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) education. Laura Wilson, Head of STEM at Bohunt School in Liphook, recently pointed out at a Telegraph round table event on women in STEM, the limitations of the current status quo; with STEM relegated to after school clubs and companies predominantly offering a plethora of uncoordinated inspiration events the impact is only felt by pockets of students and does nothing to change out-of-date attitudes towards engineering.
BET is taking a very different approach by bringing specific STEM lessons, designed in con-junction with long-term industry partners, in to the curriculum so that all students take part. The STEM curriculum is based around a series of challenges that develop not only knowledge, but also key skills and habits of mind. The challenges, set by industries such as Surrey Satellites and Siemens, either mirror real-world issues the companies are facing or focus on areas of knowledge that they feel is missing from the curriculum.
There are numerous advantages to this approach:
- The lessons, taught during Key Stage 3 (11-14 year olds), are experienced by all students, thereby ensuring every student is: Increasingly motivated to study the individual subjects by being shown their practical application; given the chance to decide whether a future in STEM might be for them; more ‘STEM literate’, an essential attribute in the modern world.
- The integration of the curriculum with industry through the content, challenges, resources, trips and outside speakers, provides an in-depth, meaningful look at potential future STEM careers that goes far beyond careers meetings or work experience.
- The sustained focus on STEM over numerous years goes far beyond knowledge acquisition; it gives students a chance to develop the attitudes, competencies and habits of mind that will help them in the world of work. Examples include working to a brief, communication and prototyping.
- The long-term partnership with companies, which does not necessarily mean lots of time on the company’s part as most of the work is done by the school, leads to numerous win-win spin-offs. Examples include company employees developing communication skills by giving workshops and talks, the recruiting of apprentices to the companies and high impact CSR through mentoring of students that show high aptitude and motivation.
By Bohunt School taking the lead various initiatives can be knitted together in to a coherent, exciting programme that allows students to progress rather than just experience. Bohunt is currently planning an initiative in conjunction with Lockheed Martin that will see a large num-ber of students take part in their ‘Merlin Challenge’. Those that are inspired by that will then progress to competing in the Greenpower Car Competition, supported by Lockheed Martin employees. It is hoped then that those students who decide this is the career for them will be mentored by Lockeed Martin employees long after they have left Bohunt.
Unfortunately such positive work risks being undermined by ingrained attitudes and negative comments from parents. Acting upon research that suggests many students decide their career options primarily based on their parents opinions of certain industries. BET decided to tackle the issue of the perception of STEM careers both by parents and students by hosting a free STEM festival for the whole community. Over 40 local STEM industries attended offering hands-on workshops and interactive exhibits. The event has been run for two years and over 6000 people have attended. Exit surveys from the festivals have shown that the percentage of parents that would recommend a STEM career to their children doubled to nearly 90% by the end of the Festival.
Laura Wilson, Head of STEM at Bohunt, at the Telegraph event talked over another major barrier that their approach is helping to overcome:
“When we ask students to draw an engineer they depict a man and a mechanic.”
By controlling STEM over a sustained period of time the school can ensure the role models encountered by students highlight that STEM is for all. The annual Bohunt motivational speaker series has emphasised women in STEM, the Siemens Womens Network has run girls only STEM workshops and the schemes of work are made accessible to all.
Anecdotal evidence and success, for both girls and boys, at national Science Competitions such as Go4SET and the National Science & Engineering Competition, hint at the impact of BET’s approach. However, attainment and destination data is not yet available as the initia-tives are relatively new. However, recognition and affirmation of Bohunt’s innovative ap-proach is growing; Philip Avery won STEM Leader of the Year 2013 and the school was TES Overall School of the Year 2014. Furthermore, the school is working with Winchester Uni-versity to work out how to embed Engineering Habits of Mind and then measure their impact on attainment, attitudes and ambitions.
Neil Strowger, CEO of Bohunt Education Trust (www.bohunttrust.com), said:
“Education for us is far more than simply outstanding examination results. Our Mandarin immersion programme, transformation use of technology and STEM curriculum show our commitment to giving students the skills, attitudes and ambition to stand-out and succeed long after they have left us.”