A science, technology, engineering and mathematics enrichment program that drives curriculum development

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Ysgol Glan-y-Môr School’s STEM enrichment programme has resulted in increased pupil engagement and aspirations, improvements in subject standards and the development of pupils’ wider skills.

Number of learners: 482
Age range: 11 - 16
Date of inspection: May 2017

Information about the school

Glan-y-Môr is an 11-16 community focused school in Burry Port with 480 pupils on roll of whom approximately 30% are eligible for free school meals. The school was formally federated with Ysgol Bryngwyn School in 2014 becoming the pioneer pilot for secondary federations in Wales. Glan-y-Môr works in strong partnership both with its primary feeders and with the local FE provider through 14-19 initiatives. The school is currently a pioneer school for professional learning.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Glan-y-Môr introduced a STEM (science technology engineering maths) enrichment programme in September 2014, initially as an extra-curricular activity to promote transition.  Since then it has rapidly evolved as a key strategy in driving curriculum development to meet the requirements of the new curriculum for Wales. The aim of the programme was to engage and excite pupils about the career paths offered in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths. The programme is based on the principles of active learning, raising aspirations and increasing opportunities. The school is confident that this STEM enrichment programme is already helping its pupils to develop in line with the recommendations of the Donaldson report and its 4 key principles. The strategies and lessons learned from implementing this successful STEM programme are now being applied to the main curriculum.

The programme has a multi-faceted approach, in that it provides opportunities for all learners as well as containing key aspects which focus on groups of learners; for example, those eligible for free school meals, more able and talented, and girls.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The approach described above comprises of:

Challenge days.  These are days on which the curriculum is suspended and where whole year groups engage in STEM challenge activities. These activities are focused on “live” projects or STEM competitions, for example the “D&T Alu Challenge”. Pupils work in teams of three responding to a competitive brief to produce a design solution which is not just fit for purpose but also develops their knowledge and understanding of aluminium. These, and similar challenges require the pupils to adopt a range of skills, such as problem solving, communication and research as well as applying their existing knowledge and understanding of concepts and themes gained through more traditional learning methods in other subjects.

Teaching across year groups.  During the autumn term 2016 the school was involved in piloting a Crest Award project for the British Science Association and Welsh Government. This provided the opportunity to trial mixed year group working and allowed the flexibility for pupils to develop their communication and teamwork skills as well as developing their confidence by working with and leading other pupils of different ages.

Working with outside organisations.   As a smaller school Glan-y-Môr has benefited extensively from bringing expertise in from local industry, STEM organisations and STEM ambassadors.  This has enabled the school to give its pupils a much wider range of learning opportunities and experiences. This expertise has been utilised in a variety of ways and on a range of STEM projects.

Collaboration with primary and FE partners.  Working across phases with primary and FE partners on STEM projects has enabled the school to establish strong partnership links. These projects have supported young learners in a number of ways and have had a beneficial impact on pupils’ outcomes.  In key stage 2 there have been improved outcomes in maths and science, pupils’ development and attainment outcomes have improved across STEM subjects, and there has been a significant change in pupils’ confidence and self-esteem. In addition, pupils’ transition on entry to the school in Year 7, and from Year 11 to college, has been made more comfortable and successful by this cross-phase approach.

Going forward with SciTech – The school is now looking to apply what has been learned through the enrichment programme to the mainstream curriculum through the introduction of SciTech for September 2017. This idea evolved via the school’s involvement in the Science and Technology Area of Learning Experience Working Party. The rationale for this approach is that learning is made more meaningful when it addresses the question “Why do we need to know this?” It is hoped that pupils will develop skills which allow them to naturally transfer knowledge and skills between subjects, particularly at secondary level. The approach is intended to enrich subject knowledge while introducing greater challenge to learners.

‘The Sky’s Her Limit’ -  Glan-y-Môr intends to further develop the enrichment programme through including an exciting all-girl KS3 STEM challenge day with Chwarae Teg called ‘The Sky’s Her Limit’, which focuses on increasing the number of girls following STEM career paths. The school will continue to reach out to other educational establishments at all levels to share experiences and help others to engage with the collaborative, contextualised, active learning that the STEM enrichment programme has provided for the pupils.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

Over the course of the project, as a result of increased engagement and participation, the school has seen marked improvements in standards in science, technology and mathematics.  However, the benefits to pupils have not been confined to the development of STEM skills and knowledge, but have helped to improve pupils’ wider skills of communication, public speaking, independent or active learning, teamwork and leadership development, as well as raising their confidence, self-esteem and aspiration.   Pupils have gained a reputation locally and nationally as confident, articulate communicators and public speakers, recently meeting with First Minister Carwyn Jones as well as being the subject of a BBC Newsround short film at the end of last year.
All of these initiatives and experiences have raised aspiration amongst pupils, who now see opportunities rather than barriers to their ambitions, and are key contributors to the school’s work being identified as sector leading.

How have you share your good practice?

The school ensures that all developments are shared across the federation with Bryngwyn - its partner school.  As part of the pioneer network the Bryngwyn/ Glan-y-Môr federation also has the opportunity to work with a number of schools on curriculum development. There is a very active Twitter feed - @glanymorStem - which captures all the STEM work and is available for all to access. A number of videos on shared spaces show how pupils have engaged with and gained from numerous STEM experiences. These are on the school website at www.glanymorschool.co.uk
A recent ‘Big Bang’ event saw 11 schools share STEM activities on site. The school’s experiences and vision of how the STEM programme acts as a facilitator for the curriculum for Wales within its family of schools is communicated  through meetings with STEM coordinators from other schools,  organisations and  consortia.

Links: www.glanymorschool.co.uk