Make Primary Science Exciting!

By Helen Spring

Science at primary school should be exciting and memorable; it should not only provide children with basic science knowledge, but the skills and the inclination to go out and find things out for themselves.

Primary Science experiment

Primary science experiment

As the recent report from the Wellcome Trust says,

‘pupils should be inspired by their first formal educational encounters with science at primary school’.

I thoroughly agree with this and believe that pupils’ early encounters with science can lead to a lifelong passion for the subject, or equally, turn them off the subject for life!

The Wellcome Trust is concerned that primary science is missing out; that science is no longer a priority for primary schools and that there is a lack of science expertise in primary schools. I believe that science should be a higher priority for primary schools; not only can science motivate and enthuse young people, it teaches them to be investigative and analytical, and develops their transferable speaking and listening skills. I taught one young boy who found English and maths incredibly difficult, but had an incredibly analytical mind and was more capable than many of the higher ability pupils at articulating his ideas and persuading others of his viewpoint.

As an experienced primary school teacher, I am aware that science is often not given the status or time it deserves. There are classes where science is taught from a textbook by a teaching assistant covering PPA; I know of teachers who have been told by senior leadership that there is no minimum allocated teaching time for science and that an afternoon once a fortnight is sufficient. Science in Year 6 often takes a back seat whilst children are prepped for the Maths and Literacy SATs tests. The demise of the Year 6 Science SATs test has advantages and disadvantages as outlined in the report; it means that children no longer have to spend science lessons sitting past SATs papers in order to prepare for their forthcoming assessment, but it means that science lessons are often an afterthought as teachers have spent all their available time planning lessons to ensure that everyone reaches the appropriate level in literacy and numeracy.

Whilst a strong scientific background is helpful in order to achieve these aims, it is more important for primary teachers, who are usually teaching across the curriculum, to have the confidence and experience of carrying out practical investigations. Primary schools, more often than not, do not have specialist teachers available to teach science, and need to make sure that all their teachers, and teaching assistants if necessary, are confident and capable in teaching primary science.

I know many teachers who have spent the morning before lessons on KS2 and KS3 revision webpages making sure that their knowledge is one step ahead of the children’s, so that they can answer those tricky questions from more able children. Primary teachers do not need to have a degree, or even an A level, in a science in order to teach in a primary school. What they do need, is a robust and broad understanding of the concepts up to KS3. ‘Subject Knowledge Enhancement for Primary Teachers’ run by the National Science Learning Centre offers teachers the opportunity to boost their knowledge. The National STEM Centre also houses numerous physical and online primary resources which can support teachers in their subject knowledge and in the classroom.

The National Science Learning Centre wants to support all primary teachers to be able to deliver exciting and inspiring practical science lessons; and to develop confidence, competence and recognition in Primary Science Leaders . ‘New and Aspiring Primary Science Specialists’ is a course designed to enhance delegates’ subject knowledge and leadership skills. Participants who go on this course will have the opportunity to develop their expertise, career and professional status. More experienced Subject Leaders may wish to attend ‘Extending the Role of Science Subject Leader’, which provides them with the opportunity to explore best practice and interact with research at local, national and international levels. Both these courses help to address the issues identified in the Wellcome Trust’s report.

Behaviour Management: From Consistency to Certainty in Ten Steps

by Paul Dix

Guest blog from Paul Dix, a behavioural management specialist at Pivotal Education. Paul is running a 5 week online course for the National Science Learning Centre in November 2014 to help teachers harness their own behaviour and body language to improve their students behaviour. 

Inconsistent classrooms and labs are difficult places to learn in. Inconsistent teachers are unpredictable, fuelled by emotion and swing from passive to aggressive in a heart beat.paul_dix581x272_jpg__227x100_q85_crop_upscale

My teachers were consistent. Consistently violent, aggressive and harsh! Board rubbers aimed at the head, rulers to the back of the knees and the occasional fist (yes, I have been thinking about behaviour management for quite some time now!)

We desire consistency but there is this nagging doubt that absolute consistency does not reflect our true nature. None of us are 100% consistent and to pretend that we are can mean setting yourself up for a fail. We need a realistic aim. You can create a consistent environment by getting it right 80% of the time; you can create a consistent school with 80% of the adults holding the line. The muttering 20% in the staff room can continue to mutter. If the rest of the staff are united, a sea change in behaviour can still be effected. When we fall off the wagon and act irrationally there must be a consistent willingness to apologise, to recognise our own fallibility and climb back on.

When you hear students talking about their teachers they discuss those who are consistent, (‘Don’t mess her about, she always gets you,’) and those who are not, (‘I hate him, he shouted at me and I only asked a question). They know when you are late to the lesson, unprepared, impatient or react with more emotion than thought. They are forming opinions about your consistency that are quickly set and hard to change. Students bring these attitudes and expectations to the STEM classroom and begin the class with them. Lessons can feel like an uphill struggle when a group expect to be treated unfairly or lack a consistent model. The more they sense inconsistency the more they will be tempted to exploit it or defend against it and the workshop becomes an unstable place for learning.

There is an idea in the popular press that teaching through aggression, fear and hostility was what made British classrooms disciplined and productive. In truth the best teachers have always used something far more effective and far less damaging to relationships than fear. The best teachers working with the most challenging learners have, with hard work over an extended period, moved beyond consistency to certainty.

‘How is it that when I give Kyle a hard stare he laughs at me and when you shoot a glance at him he immediately corrects his behaviour?’ It is certainty. The certainly that you will take action and follow up relentlessly. The certainty that there are rules, routines and learning habits that will always be applied. The certainty that inappropriate behaviour will be met with a rational rather than emotional response. The certainty that even if the child decides to escalate the incident with secondary behaviours the initial behaviour will always be addressed and not forgotten. The certainty that you will keep your promise. The certainty that when it all gets crazy, there is a kindness, humanity and humility from the teacher that shines through. It is these teachers who make the greatest, positive long term impact. It is true that no one forgets a violent, aggressive or hostile teacher. But I am not sure that we remember them for the right reasons.

The roots of a consistent classroom lie in the habits and routines that are relentlessly taught. The learning habits that are embedded in each activity must be clear to everyone, enforced and reinforced until the students tell you they know, ‘Alright, enough already, we know the routine…Sir!. From mundane organisational routines (lining up, deciding on groupings, distributing equipment) to more complex learning rituals (deconstructing a practical demonstration, peer assessment, devising success criteria) your insistence on following the agreements creates consistency and safety for all students.

Set your routines, teach them, model them but most importantly of all, display them. If you are teaching the group how to work productively in groups tell them precisely the behaviours that you want to see from them. Write them out, use words, pictures, symbols, digital animation even. Set the routine, agree it and then catch those who are following it. Sounds simple. In practice it is relentless and tiring.

When you sense that your emotion is getting in the way of your rational consistency it is your routines that provide your best fall back position. Lengthen your emotional fuse with your favourite mantra; ‘Just for today don’t get angry’, ‘I am a 38 year old woman talking to a 12 year old girl’, or ‘I am relaxed, I am calm….I am not about to throttle Wayne/surrender to the men in white coats/have a screaming fit…really I am not!’. Fall back on the language patterns that work and remove yourself from the situation with grace, ‘I am going to leave you to think about what you said, I will come back in a minute and I am sure you will show me how polite you can be’.

Perhaps the greatest challenges to your personal consistency are those children who are most inconsistent in their own behaviour. They may be comfortable surrounded by chaos; for some it replicates their life outside of the classroom. How can we reconcile being consistent when different children demand different levels of intervention, positive reinforcement? We differentiate lesson content, support, resources, groupings for learning. This same differentiation can be applied to behaviour. You are differentiating your responses according to the needs of your students just as you differentiate for learning. Some children need to hear your verbal praise more often that others

Their short concentration span or limiting self belief needs the gentle nudge of your encouragement to keep them working. Try not to get caught up worrying about how you can be consistent across the whole school. Instead focus on individual classes and whenever possible how you are being consistent with individual children. As your consistency and certainty increase you will find children adjusting their behaviour as you arrive. In time you will be able to shoot that look to Kyle across the hall and adjust his behaviour in an instant. Newly qualified teachers may gasp in awe and demand to know where you buy the magic from. Unfortunately you cannot buy it, but you can make it with time, patience and a large helping of humility.

10 Steps to Certainty

  1. When students escalate take them back to the original behaviour before you deal with the secondary behaviours.
  2. Display your consistency clearly on the walls of your teaching space
  3. Manage escalating inappropriate behaviour with an emotionless almost scripted response.
  4. Use phone calls home and positive notes home to reinforce your positive certainty. Even in the most inconsistent homes.
  5. Map rules, routines, learning habits and rituals for individuals and specific activities that are becoming difficult to manage.
  6. Have a clear tariff for appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. Send it home to parents and be prepared to concede when you have a bad day and don’t apply it correctly.
  7. Use ‘choice’ when you are speaking to children about their behaviour ‘If you choose to stay on task throughout this activity you can be certain that I will catch you and give you praise and reward. If you choose to ignore the routine/make a sanctuary under the bench/eat Charlene’s rubber you can be certain that you will receive a sanction that I will enforce’.
  8. Don’t judge yourself too harshly when you fall off the wagon and behave inconsistently apologise and get back to your consistent habits and routines.
  9. Resist the temptation to deal with minor indiscretions with high level sanctions. In effect you are ‘crying wolf’, when you really need support for behaviour that warrants a high level sanction colleagues may not be so keen to support.
  10. Aim to deliver and execute sanctions on the same day so that every student can start each day with a clean sheet.

Watch the video to find out more about our free online course commencing in November.  Please register  to attend our Behaviour Management Course here https://www.slcs.ac.uk/nat/behaviourmanagement

 

The science of ice cream

By Yvonne Baker

iStock_000006293364XSmallWhile you are tucking into your ice cream on the beach this summer, you are actually closer to science than might at first meet the eye. So here – with the help of my Dad, who spent many years developing ice cream – is a quick lowdown on the science of ice cream, with which you can impress your family, amaze your friends and also enjoy yourself checking samples!

Firstly, what is ice cream? Well, scientifically speaking it is a frozen matrix of water, fat (dairy or vegetable), milk proteins, sugars, salt and air, with – interestingly from a physical chemistry side of things – a physical structure including liquid, solid and gas phases. This is because, simultaneously, air cells, ice crystals, fat particles and other components all exist within the continuous liquid phase which binds it all together. Water in the form of ice crystals, fat and air sizes, and relative proportions of these are key to the quality of the ice cream and also determine its storage life.

We have all now seen ice cream being made on a small scale, either in your own kitchen or on various television cooking programmes. The Catalyst article in the National STEM Centre eLibrary even shows you how you can make ice cream without a freezer. However, how is the making of ice cream translated to an industrial scale?  – after all, it would take a lot of domestic ice cream makers to feed Brighton Beach on a sunny day!

Well, this is where what chemical engineers call ‘unit operations’ come in – these are bits of a process which, when linked together in the right combination, transform raw materials into a finished product. For ice cream production, key unit operations include:

  • Formulation and preparation – a typical ice cream formulation includes 10% fat, 12% non-fat milk solids,15% sucrose , 0.5% stabiliser/emulsifier (such as locust bean gum/glycerol monostearate) with water making up the remainder. Importantly, not all of the water in ice cream production is ever completely frozen, so stabilisers are used to achieve texture, meltdown and the storage characteristics required by the end customer.
  • Pasteurisation – as with milk, this involves exposing the mix to a high temperature for a short time (eg 80’C for 25secs) to ensure it is ok to freeze and safe to eat.
  • Homogenisation – emulsifiers are included in the ice cream mix to help destabilise the fat globules during homogenisation where the ice cream mix is forced through a small orifice at high pressure (2000-2500 psi). This reduces the fat globule size (to a few microns) to give a dry stiff texture to ice cream when extruded from a freezer. This then allows the manufacture of the different product formats e.g. cones, tubs, stick products and logs.
  • Ageing/addition of flavours – the mix is cooled below 4C for ageing, standing for a few hours before further processing. This is an essential step to allow the physical interactions to occur to produce the desired end product, such as crystallisation of fat particles. Flavours are added at this stage to avoid heat damage.
  • Freezing and product formation – the aged mix is pumped through a refrigerated cylinder which has a rotating part with sharp blade. The frozen mix is scraped from the cylinder surface at the same time as air is incorporated, and through mixing occurs. The ice cream is extruded at around -5C into the required product form.
  • Hardening and storage – once formed into the desired shape, the ice creams are frozen further (hardened) to around -20’C for storage and distribution. Ideally ice cream products should be kept at the lower (hardened) temperature throughout storage and distribution; this prevents partial melting of the ice crystals, which will form larger crystals when they recrystallize so impacting ‘mouthfeel’. However, in reality, mix formulations and processing techniques have been developed to minimise the adverse effects of recrystallization. Interestingly, soft ice cream outlets (like vans) avoid this problem by buying in sterilised ice cream mix and freezing it on demand; the disadvantage is that storage times are much shorter, and these products must therefore be consumed within a short time.

After all these processes, the ice creams are at last ready to be enjoyed. So, next time you decide to indulge in a Magnum, Cornetto or even a Twister (one of the many ice creams my Dad had a hand in developing as part of his working life), give a quick thought to the many engineers, scientists and others who have helped bring you this little bit of summer heaven, and reflect on the many uses that science has!

Reforms to Science at GCSE and A-level: content delivery and practical skills

By Katy Bloom

The Westminster Education Forum held a series of seminars for a predominantly teacher audience on Thursday 22nd July 2014 about the ‘Reforms to Science at GCSE and A-level: content delivery and practical skills.’ Wave Machine at the National Science Learning Centre

Among the questions raised at the seminar around the new Science GCSE seminar were:

  1. What are the teaching and learning implications posed by the move to new linear GCSEs, with coursework and modules removed?
  2. Does the content of the new Science GCSEs link with the content of the Maths GCSE in a way that will adequately facilitate cross-curricular teaching?
  3. How can Government address concerns that making the content of the GCSEs more challenging has the potential to put pupils off taking up science at GCSE and A-level?
  4. How well will the new GCSEs prepare students for the transition to A-level? Given that ‘triple science’ [TS] – the three individual science GCSEs – consist of more advanced content than the science double award qualification [DS], what steps can schools take to ensure that those studying the double award are not at an unfair disadvantage in preparation for A-levels?

My points on the questions above to the audience were as follows:

  1. There are teaching and learning implications of linear assessment.

It’s not really so helpful to just concentrate on chunks of teaching time, and argue for a two-year versus a three-year GCSE. What we need is bigger curriculum thinking: a five-or even seven year progression that effectively plans over successive stages, where teachers have time to revisit both skills and content.

‘Young’ teachers may have never experienced anything other than modular exams themselves. Similarly, current teachers have been teaching modular curricula for more than 12 years, and have acquired ‘habits’ that go along with that approach. That’s not meant pejoratively, it’s simply a consequence of the past curriculum changes. There is however, a lot of supportive professional development that would benefit teachers making the transition to more synoptic teaching and learning.

  1. Increased demand of both literacy and mathematics

To answer the question of ‘whether the content of the Science GCSE links with that of the Maths GCSE’, with another question: has the Maths GCSE been designed to complement the Science GCSE (or vice versa)? How much co-planning was there? If it has been designed so, it will be much easier, more sensible, and incentivising for maths and science departments to be able to work together to deliver a more seamless education. Equally, what can the science department gain from working with the English department? And do they have the time to do so?

It is the ability of the teachers to absorb these changes and transfer them into suitable learning experiences for their students that is really the challenge. For example, there has not been a wide-scale whole-school approach to numeracy across the curriculum since 2002 (National Strategies). Again, there are professional development implications.

  1. Erm, it’s not about the content.

When you look at the curricula of other countries, they are remarkably similar in cognitive demand at comparable ages. The proposed science GCSE has overall similar science content to the existing one.

We shouldn’t confuse ‘challenge of content’ with what ultimate grade boundaries will be to reduce grade inflation; they are not comparable things.

It is teachers who provide the challenge

It is teachers who provide the transitions between stages

The issue is the quality of the teaching rather than the content of the curriculum.

A key solution is to professionally develop the teaching workforce so that they are able to cope with the constant change

  1. The issue is how teachers in post-16 offer the right transition from different pathways

Does Triple Science  have ‘more advanced content’? I don’t think this is wholly precise. It is true that some concepts are more demanding, but on the whole, triple science has more breadth than double science rather than more complex content.

As such, it is not necessarily an advantage to those who have done it over double science; some post-16 teachers assume their students have come from the double science route, and plan and teach accordingly. However, many colleges are now only enabling triple science pupils with A* /A to take post-16 qualifications, as it is more straightforward for them than the work they would need to put into the transition for those from grade B or below or from double science.

The most disadvantaged are really those double science students who attempt an A level with a C grade from the lower tier, as they have not had the breadth of content of double science higher tier. It might not always be the case – it might be that they can and do succeed with the right transition – but it requires a commitment and willingness from  post-16 teachers to provide this

It is however fair to say that triple science students who are required to take it in double science time are disadvantaged also, and this too has the potential to put students off taking it post-16. This is the key point from Ofsted’s ‘Maintaining Curiosity’ report – it is the lack of sufficient curriculum time and quality of teaching which are the limiting factors to pupils’ success.

A wider perspective is that for some students triple science is right and the depth it allows them motivates them, as they like the challenge, it suits their interests and helps them move to post-16 sciences.  However double science level and content is the right choice for other students , particularly for those who want to spend their curriculum time in other areas i.e. sports, music, arts, humanities before possibly specialising in post-16 science. The needs of the individual student must be considered rather than shoe-horning them into a one-size-fits-all qualification.

Here is the full presentation I made to the Westminster Education Forum;

 

Some of our courses which may prove useful include:
The National STEM Centre’s Practical work hub will also provide inspiration, with quick access to hundreds of resources  and hand picked resource lists linked to areas of the new National Curriculum with added guidance, tips and advice.

Captain Cartwright’s ten killer questions to develop a high performing science department

by  Ed Walsh

Having had some minor part in the recent Science Learning Centre and Ofsted events last month, I was intrigued to be presenting sessions at the SS Great Britain in Bristol. Alas it wasn’t actually on board the boat (breakout sessions in the lifeboats?) but a great venue nevertheless.Brian Cartwright presents Maintaining Curiousity from Ofsted The key note was by Brian Cartwright, HMI’s Science Adviser. It turns out that Brian is no stranger to life on the water, being a keen narrow boat owner.

It wasn’t much later that our paths crossed again, this time at the Annual Science Adviser’s Conference. Although still very much pursuing the ideas behind ‘Maintaining Curiosity’ (and why not?) the presentation now referred to what to look for in a high performing science department.

Ten things to look for when deciding whether a good job is being done by a team of science teachers.

Any insights are Brian’s and any misrepresentations mine.

  1. Is the team being led to place enquiry at the heart of teaching? A school being good or outstanding overall doesn’t mean that this is necessarily in place. An over emphasis on teaching to the exam may lead to good grades but students disillusioned with the subject.
  2. Are students keen to engage with content as well as to develop skills?  The ‘process card’ can be over played: if dull content coverage is mixed with engaging practical work, students may enjoy the latter but not the former. Science has some great ideas and these should be shared effectively.
  3. Is assessment accurate and timely? In other words does it reflect what students need to be mastering and is it scheduled so that both they and teachers can respond to bring about improvements? The problem with end of topic tests is that they’re, well, at the end of the topic.
  4. Do lessons recognise and respond to prior learning? If some students already know a lot about how light is reflected, for example, does the teacher know that and has the lesson design been modified accordingly?
  5. Do lessons challenge students at the limit of their capabilities? Not beyond, but are they being stretched? Even the higher attaining ones.
  6. Do teachers understand the ‘big ideas’ in science and do they connect the detailed content of particular lessons to this overall perspective?
  7. How well are students mastering the skills that underpin the development of scientific understanding over time? For example, are they coming to appreciate the provisional nature of scientific knowledge and how earlier ideas are replaced in due course with more detailed ones?
  8. How regularly can students discover for themselves the relevance of the big ideas? For example, are they developing first hand experience of how to use these concepts as tools to use to make sense of the world?
  9. How well do leaders monitor and evaluate reasons why students follow certain routes post 16? Students who receive a well rounded education will be able to choose from a range of options and not everyone who did well in sciences at GCSE will go on to study those. You would expect that some would, that leaders would know and would have a response.
  10. How much time is allocated to science? There is sometimes an issue here, especially with Triple Science being ‘shoe horned’ into less time than would be a fair share. Usually the first victim is practical work and high attaining students may find that they are on a compressed content delivery programme. They may persist to the extent of securing reasonable grades but then ‘bail out’ from further study of science.

Compared with some of the forms being filled in that I’ve seen, a pretty concise set of pointers. Set to chart a fair course.

To help you implement some of Brian’s top ten actions, I’ve listed below some CPD activities for primary and secondary teachers which may come in useful.

Primary science courses

Preparing for the New Science Curriculum

Assessment and Progression in Primary Science

New and Aspiring Primary Science Specialist

Secondary science courses

Preparing for the New Secondary Science Curriculum

Progression and Attainment in Science

New and Aspiring Heads of Science

A robot called Dave enthuses budding engineers

By Gemma Taylor

This week’s National Women in Engineering Day has personal meaning, as engineering was the gateway through which I left home, went to university, made new friends, had new experiences, and ultimately learned that it was ok to be a girl, and enjoy making, breaking and finding out how things work. As an engineer, and now in my career as a secondary school engineering teacher, I have the privilege and the challenge, of ensuring that the message of today is an everyday experience for the girls in my school.  Dave the robot

Katie, one of my Year 9 engineering students said “engineering is great. I have always loved technology and making things in engineering teaches me more about this topic. It is amazing. Creating products that work is the greatest feeling ever. I am one of three girls in our engineering class and it is wonderful.”

With the current skills shortage in engineering and the wider STEM careers, it has never been more important for students to see apprentices, graduates and professionals working in industry. Whether it is face to face, a company led project, a factory tour, a talk from a visiting speaker, via social media or Skype, these experiences are readily accessible to students in our classrooms. With so much time being dedicated to assessments, marking, and ensuring the outcomes of students, it would be forgivable for teachers to let these experiences slip by. However the difference it makes to students like Katie, could be the catalyst to become tomorrow’s future engineer.

One of the many things we are doing at the National Science Learning Centre is developing ways to help teachers and industry work more closely together. This new scheme is called TIPS (Teacher Industry Partnership Scheme). We’re delighted to be working with CrossRail as one of our first partners. TIPS will benefit teachers by increasing their knowledge about STEM industries, and enable them to draw on authentic industrial examples to contextualise learning in the classroom. With initiatives such as this we’re aiming to help girls such as the ‘Katies’ in my class (and boys too!) continue with their enthusiasm for engineering at university and out into the wider world.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from teaching girls engineering, it’s that nothing engages students more than healthy competition…and a robot called Dave. For the third consecutive year I recently took a group of students to School’s Robot Wars at Bradford University. This year’s robot is the first to be designed and constructed with girls on the team, and unsurprisingly, it’s been the most successful robot we have ever built.

A different Katie (how confusing!) reported “We were given a speed controller and car batteries to control the motors which drove the robot forward and backwards. It was brilliant to make Dave work and in the end he came third which was better than our school had done in any other years. The trip out was awesome and engineering is the best subject ever!”

National Women in Engineering day shines a light on female engineers across the UK, inspiring young girls to think of engineering as a career that is not only open to them, but is also a career in which they can excel. I thoroughly support it!

Telling it like it is – the messages we need to be giving to girls (and boys) about careers in STEM.

By Yvonne Baker

Anyone who knows me for more than five minutes will work out there are three things I really can’t abide – hypocrisy, inconsistency and, more than anything else, feeling patronised. I’m sure I’m not wholly innocent of the first two – if I claimed as much, there would probably be a long line of family, friends and colleagues vying for position to put me right. As for the third, I guess it’s largely up to me what I feel about things, but all too often it’s difficult not to feel vaguely patronised, particularly when it comes to rooms of people talking about women and STEM.Woman working on computerized machine embroidery

That’s why I am so pleased to see more women coming out and telling a different narrative about their life working in STEM fields or studying STEM subjects; a positive and encouraging story of excitement, challenge, fun and achievement rather than the usual chain of issues, barriers, difficulties and setbacks. In this case, it’s Jennifer Purvis working at Lotus who was featured in The Guardian’s Women and Leadership pages on June 16 2014 . She talks engagingly about the excitement of her work and also the satisfaction of being part of a close knit and supportive, even if largely male, team – both things that I certainly experienced in my days working in chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing. She talks positively about encouraging girls to consider careers in engineering which is exactly what we need everyone to do, rather than too often feeding them mixed messages about wanting more girls to study physics and engineering but in the next breath detailing the difficulties that the job (or any job) might entail. Ah but – I hear you say – her father is also an engineer; yes, and we know family influences are important, but that simply demonstrates why we need to get our communication about the positives of engineering better and more effective. After all, what caring parent wants their child to embark on something that people tell them is potentially hostile and fraught with difficulty. No wonder so many children of engineers – male and female – become engineers themselves; they know what a great job it really is.

Certainly for myself and those women I know who have worked in engineering, we couldn’t agree more with Jennifer’s view that engineering is a great place to be. We all need to be communicating better to girls – and their teachers, parents and other influencers – the huge variety of opportunity, environments and activities that the simple word ‘engineering’ can mean. We need to do this honestly and without falling into the trap of trying to ‘feminise’ it in ways which are themselves stereotypical and patronising.

The reason I do the job I have now is that I genuinely want more young people – girls and boys – to understand what a fabulous springboard STEM subjects, such as engineering, can be. This doesn’t mean wanting a world full of engineers – heavens, what a thought! Rather it’s about conveying the excitement, potential, rewards and unbelievable range of opportunities to which a solid grounding in STEM can lead, within a ‘traditional’ STEM career, in emerging technologies or creating the technologies and jobs that don’ yet exist!

It’s great to see some of these messages being reflected in the new #YourLife campaign, and I hope this can provide some real impetus for the positive change we need. So let’s give more air time to Jennifer and others working in these environments who can inspire and engage through positive messages, and let the next generation see the exciting opportunities, rather than hypothetical disadvantages, ahead.

STEM teachers should also a look at our STEM Careers Conference which occurs every year in late June.

 

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