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Consider the Real STEM Competition

Matt Hackett explains how specialist STEM provision gives students a real advantage in education and beyond

Posted by Craig Daykin | May 04, 2017 | Teaching

National and international research suggests that 75% of the fastest growing occupations require a skillset best developed through STEM subjects. As a result, there has been a worldwide drive to prioritise specialist STEM provision alongside the standard curriculum.

However, the OECD still reports a STEM skills deficit in the UK. It is one of the greatest concerns for the business community. Therefore, to fully prepare students for the future and ensure they have the ability to be globally competitive, we not only need to truly engage them in STEM subjects but empower them with the specific skills so highly valued in the workplace. 

One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by introducing focussed STEM days. The best involve intriguing ‘real-life’ scenarios that combine skill-based challenges, innovative hands-on practical work and motivational game-like activities. The approach has proved to be an incredibly popular and successful route forward for more than a decade. 

Whether the scenario is an exciting Space Adventure or a thrilling Murder Mystery, the benefits are clear: Students improve their creative and critical thinking, whilst developing problem solving and communication skills. They use new equipment, explore new concepts and learn new techniques that reinforce and extend curriculum content. Simultaneously, teachers can quickly evaluate the impact of the teaching strategies employed and trial new resources for use in their own lessons in order to sustain the approach. 

But, it can take an inordinate amount of time to finely hone every aspect of STEM day to ensure it delivers maximum benefit. It is extra time that teachers rarely have; which is why it can be so effective to invite specialist providers, using the best equipment and resources, into the school. With minimal impact on the timetable but maximum impact on learning, The Real STEM Competition is a fantastic way to introduce this type of event and include every pupil. 

With minimal impact on the timetable but maximum impact on learning, The Real STEM Competition is a fantastic way to introduce this type of event and include every pupil

It is also incredibly easy to run, as the programme is delivered in the host school and fits within the school timings. This year, the competition is called ‘Space Pioneers’ and includes advanced electronics and microchemistry embedded within a realistic space exploration story. UK schools can enter the competition until National Science Week 2018 and details can be found at

Thinkers in Education (TiE) deliver the workshops and offer an unparalleled range and depth of specialist STEM events that have been hosted thousands of times by schools throughout the UK and as far afield as Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. Every host school has recommended TiE events since 2005, which is a testament to the incredible attention to detail in the design and delivery. 

With so many different workshops available, in addition to this year’s competition option, schools can select the most appropriate to best meet their specific requirements:

King’s Ely Junior School, hosting events since 2006, choose full-day CSI workshops to include all students from year 7 at the same time. It allows mixed ability teams to work together to solve the case. “This event could not be any better! Truly challenging, with a wide variety of skills developed, in a theme pupils really enjoyed.” Laura Roberts, Assistant Headteacher.

Bristol Grammar School, hosting events every year since 2011, choose full-day events for focus groups containing thirty two pupils from years 7, 8 and 9. Their approach makes it possible to monitor the progression of a year 7 pupil through consecutive years. “The events offer excellent stretch and challenge for our very bright students. A brisk pace – very appropriate, a competitive atmosphere and a good range of activities – both practical and academic.” Director of scholars, Dr Robert Massey.

Matt Hackett is the founder of Thinkers in Education.
T: 01603 520866

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