STEM careers education steams ahead during lockdown

AN ACADEMY in Lancashire has been ‘edutaining’ pupils with broadcasts from young entrepreneurs hailing from all over Europe throughout lockdown.

Colne Primet Academy had only just begun to roll out Steam School, an award-winning virtual academy, when school closures came into force.  

The online learning platform then came into its own – helping Year 7, 8 and 9 pupils to work through challenges and access entrepreneurs’ talks on their home computers, with teachers monitoring participation and progress remotely.

Sarah Leak, Director of Maths at Colne Primet Academy, said: “Steam School started off as something I thought I could run as a STEM club. With the backing of our Principal Dean Lythgoe, it quickly became a whole-school approach. We had our launch assemblies and were excited to get going; then lockdown happened and it really took off with the theme of Entrepreneurs!

‘Streaming broadcasts by young people with their own businesses gives our pupils the inspiration to go ahead and do it themselves. A lot of them have been getting in touch to tell me how much they have enjoyed it. I’ve had messages saying: ‘Thank you for sending the link to that video. It’s been motivating me and encouraging me during lockdown’.”

The wider team have expertise in livestreaming, app development and a small team of specialist teachers who help to create our learning materials. 

Steam School was founded in 2018 by Jade Parkinson-Hill to connect students aged nine to 14 with inspirational people from the worlds of Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Art and Maths.

Having previously hosted guest broadcasts from global brands such as Instagram, Pokémon Go, Google and Fortnite, demand for Jade’s online service has soared amongst educators during lockdown.

Jade said: “I am proud that we have been able to support Colne Primet Academy during this difficult time for pupils, teachers and parents. Steam School has helped to lighten teacher workload and save many hours of planning time, as well as to give pupils a ‘glimpse into the future’ with our weekly broadcast.

‘As businesses focus on rebuilding their revenues and limiting external travel, they won’t be available to support school aspirations, careers and employer engagement programmes.

‘To help futureproof teaching, I am already planning next year’s curriculum with new platform features and missions – including Mission to Mars, Robotics Rocks, Fashion Futures, Eco Warriors, Young EntrepreNERDs and Outbreak. This will support school leaders to deliver a flexible curriculum with online alternatives, as championed in the Microsoft Reimagining Education Paper, in the event of any further shutdowns.”

Looking ahead to September, Sarah is considering what that blend of learning could look like for pupils at Colne Primet Academy (part of Pendle Education Trust).

“Steam School is helping me to look at everything through fresh eyes,” she said. “From extracurricular clubs with subject specialist drop-ins, to dedicating whole days to different broadcasts and Entrepreneurs, Mixed Reality and Sustainable Living challenges, there are so many options open to us as we continue to support our pupils for the transition back into school.”

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