Engineering – Building Resilience and Confidence from the Roots Up at St Jo’s

Responding to her vision for a diversified curriculum, St. Joseph’s Head of Prep School, Mrs Wood, and Mrs Elska Hughes, Engineering Teacher at St Joseph’s College, worked together to create a new subject for the Key Stage 2 timetable which encompasses Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, but moves away from the title STEM. Their objective was to deliver the early foundations of skills and knowledge that will meet the needs of the workplace and their pupils’ futures, whatever their pathway might be. 

Engineering has proved very successful and popular with pupils, staff and parents alike. They often follow class topics but also solve problems, both real and hypothetical; recently, for example, the team learned about how geologists will collect and use data from the Mars Rover Perseverance. They build opportunities to learn teamwork, responding to pressure, thinking abstractly, perseverance, and learning through tinkering and critical reflection.  

Pupils work on large whiteboards and may use apps to support and model their ideas. They work collaboratively and soon learn to draw whilst they talk and describe their ideas. A big or small ‘build’ always occupies the main part of the sessions. 

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Mrs Elska Hughes, Engineering Teacher at St Joseph’s College

In line with St. Joseph’s school ethos and the children’s priorities, they are environmentally conscious. When they built a sound sculpture and hedgehog houses, for example, they deliberately restricted themselves to recycled materials. They also deconstruct most of their prototypes and reuse the materials. 

Both the possibilities and the enthusiasm of the pupils are endless. They are now working in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering and the STEM Ambassador Programme and also plan to join forces with researchers in Cambridge investigating girls’ perceptions of barriers in computing and to join the Youth STEM Award Scheme. 

Through extracurricular activities, St Joseph’s are able to come together in small groups to enter competitions such as the Fly to the Line glider contest at RAF Hendon and the Race to the Line rocket car event.  Staying closer to home, their Reception children have built model fire engines and their girls and boys have made their own fairy light decorations. 

At St Jo’s, their pupils move seamlessly from KS2 to KS3. They have started to realise the potential of following the STEM pathways available to them at St Jo’s right up to Sixth Form level. 

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