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“There is no better time to explore the introduction of Engineering as a Educating the Engineers
In 2015 St Faith’s School, Cambridgeshire, introduced Engineering as a curriculum subject for all pupils in Years 3 to 8, with every class having a one hour Engineering lesson as part of their weekly timetable. Head Nigel Helliwell reports...
This initiative has been very well received by our pupils and parents and over the past two and half years Engineering has become
one of the most popular subjects in the school as well as attracting recognition and praise from the wider community. St Faith’s won The Times Education Supplement ‘2018 Strategic Education Initiative of Year’ award, specifically for the introduction of Engineering to the curriculum. In the words of the judges, ‘It is a STEM dream and
is producing our engineers of the future. An admirable, innovative and challenging project using local expertise and encouragement,
with superb results. To introduce engineering as a curriculum subject from age 7 is a bold and inspirational step. We were deeply impressed.’
So why has Engineering been so successful at St Faith’s? Firstly, it is highly relevant to the modern world. These days, it is rare for a minister at the Department of Education to make speech without referring to the importance of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). According to
the CBI, over the next 5 years the engineering, science and high-tech sectors expect a 90% increase in employer demand. Engineering alone accounts
for around one fifth of the UK workforce at a current level
of 5.7m jobs. Engineering UK estimates that the UK needs to produce 180,000 engineers per year – currently there is a shortfall of 70,000 per year.
Secondly, it develops key
life skills; team work (all our Engineering projects are tackled
in teams), problem-solving, resilience (as pupils will often fail) and rigour. The skills learnt through the engineering process are precisely the generic skills our pupils need to lead happy and successful lives.
Thirdly, it is practical. Every
child seems to enjoy making and firing rockets, building bridges, constructing paddleboats etc. It appeals to those children that are not academically strong but are good problem-solvers and work well with others.
Fourthly, it is academic and the academic aspect of the subject
is a key feature. Essentially, Engineering is the application
of science, maths, design or computing to practical projects. Every project has academic theory behind it and supports what
the pupils have been studying
in Science, Maths or Computing lessons. For example, pupils don’t simply make and fire rockets, they learn Newton’s 3rd law
and how to calculate centre
of mass and centre of pressure for flight stability. Engineering has therefore strengthened our academic provision and we have seen significant improvements in the children’s understanding of science, maths and computing since its introduction.
Last and certainly not least, Engineering is interactive and great fun. I have yet to find
a pupil who isn’t inspired or enthused by their latest project. There is a real sense of awe and wonder during many lessons.
Starting Point
We devised our Engineering curriculum in accordance with the
Royal Academy of Engineering guidelines. In the spirit of typical engineering activity our curriculum adopts a project-based, problem- solving, team-work approach.
Over the past two years we have refined our curriculum through
the benefit of experience and hindsight and along the way we have consulted with supportive local individual engineering leaders, members of the Cambridge University Engineering Department and representatives of professional bodies.
The Curriculum
Our engineering activities link directly with pupils’ topics in Science, Maths and Computing and even with subjects such as Art and Music. Our Engineering projects have real-world practical relevance and are designed to engage an ‘engineering way of thinking’. Pupils are asked to identify the problem, consider how they can design a solution, work as a team to build a solution, test the product and evaluate what worked and
what didn’t work to refine their solution. An example of the curriculum in action is our Year
8 children finding themselves marooned on a theoretical desert island. Their first task is to build
a shelter to fit four children,
using just newspaper and masking tape. Subsequent challenges include building a full-scale
da Vinci bridge to support the weight of individuals crossing it, designing and building motorised paddle boats and subsequently converting them into land- worthy cars, the premise being
to engineer ways to survive and subsequently escape.
Facilities
Our Engineering Department
is located within our recently completed £2M Hub. The Hub links our Science, Engineering, Maths, Computing and Art and Design departments via a huge indoor space designed specifically to encourage large-scale cross-curricular activities. The co-existence of these academic departments in one space has been planned specifically to further promote the cross- pollination of ideas and skills
and to sow the seeds of the ‘engineering way of thinking’
in to young minds. It is not uncommon to enter the Hub to find a home-made hot air balloon being tested or model rockets being launched.
We are fortunate to have these facilities but let’s be clear, Engineering can be taught effectively in most classrooms
or Design Technology facilities, and our programmes of work are therefore adaptable for use across a wide range of schools.
The Next Steps
It’s been just over two years since we launched our Engineering curriculum and already our
pupils are reaping the rewards.
In a recent survey of our Year 8 pupils more chose engineering than any other area when asked which areas of work they would like career advice on. Our pupils genuinely appear to enjoy
their engineering experiences, while the practical application of concepts and methods in engineering lessons is seen
to significantly enhance their understanding of Science and Mathematics.
 44 Independent Schools Magazine
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