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Challenging stereotypes

Lynne Horner, Principal at Westholme School, explains why STEM subjects play a significant role in school life

Posted by Alice Savage | May 06, 2017 | Teaching

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects (STEM) are arguably the foundations of the industrial and corporate world, providing a skill-set in high demand by employers.  Although these subjects can be challenging, there are plenty of opportunities on offer for motivated individuals to develop their abilities in real-world situations. This is why at Westholme STEM subjects play such a vital role in our school life. They form a core part of the curriculum for every student, plus a variety of enrichment opportunities both in and out of school. In this academic year, students in Years 7 to 11, and our A-level Maths students will have taken part in the UKMT Maths Challenge as individuals as well as entering the team challenge at Lancaster University. From hundreds of thousands of students entered across the country, Westholme students garner a significant number of gold, silver and bronze certificates and some progress to the elite ‘Kangaroo’ stage.

Employers of STEM students want to challenge the stereotypes surrounding these academic subjects and encourage more young people to take them up. 


It is important to nurture talent and for many it’s a simple case of getting young people interested early. At Westholme, this includes our junior school pupils from Year 6 having science and design technology lessons in senior facilities with subject specialists. We also host a biennial Science Day for children in Years 5 and 6 from local primary schools. This is a fun and interactive day which gives them the opportunity to see science in action in our specialist laboratories. The gender gap in the STEM industries is also being addressed, offering a more welcoming environment for girls. We place great emphasis on equality of opportunity and STEM subjects are as popular for boys or girls. 

For many students interested in STEM subjects, outside influences are often an important part of their learning. Business plays a key role in educating young people about STEM. Combining traditional teaching, technology and business would offer a far more rounded and engaging education, and future employees.

STEM skills are essential and contribute to the UK’s global position as the sixth largest manufacturer, as well as producing 10% of the world’s scientific research; engineering alone accounts for £800bn annually. We have close ties with our neighbours at BAe Systems and in September 2016, two upper sixth leavers took up apprenticeships at the Samlesbury site; two others secured prestigious work placements too. In October, BAe Systems and the RAF visited school to do a STEM Roadshow for Years 7 and 8. We were also delighted to welcome the Royal Institution of Science to run a series of workshops for all ages, training for staff and a community lecture in the evening. With many sixth formers studying at least one STEM subject at A-level, it is no coincidence that a significant number of our leavers go on to study these subjects at university, including chemical engineering, medicine and mathematics in 2016. Lower sixth formers are fortunate to take up work experience placements at a variety of local companies including BAe Systems, Blackburn Chemicals, NHS and BMI Beardwood hospitals.

Lynne Horner, Principal at Westholme School

Product Design also works at the very highest levels of excellence and utilises facilities within and outside of school. From making a device for adjusting the tension on boat sails which has involved having parts laser cut by Fergusson Laser Engineering in Nelson, to adjustable lights made using laser-cutting and 3D printing in school, students are working to very exacting standards.

Employers have raised concerns about employability skills for young people in the future especially in these crucial scientific and technological subjects. 

At Westholme, we are always looking ahead and actively promoting STEM subjects, so all ages are ready for the modern world. 


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