Felna Fox, teacher of Design and Technology at James Allen’s Preparatory School on encouraging girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

STEM subjects are the backbone of our world. From the economy to our general wellbeing, we are wholly dependent on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). These subjects underpin everything – the world as we know it could not exist without them. Not only are there millions of unfilled vacancies within the sector every year, but women and minorities are grossly under-represented too. 

Our hope is that by teaching STEM in the classroom as well as educating parents and teachers of the importance of STEM, we should help improve engagement and participation in later educational and professional years. 

Design and Technology is taught throughout James Allen’s Prep School, building confidence, creativity and skills in our pupils by encouraging them to consider problems that other people may face, as well as developing solutions. In the process, our pupils cultivate decision-making skills, effective communication skills and practical skills to broaden their minds. Within the last five years, we have embarked on a whole-school STEM initiative to ensure our girls develop these skills and receive a balanced and relevant education.

Annually, the school hosts Design Week, during which each girl works with engineering professionals from diverse sectors to develop their competition entry for the Primary Engineers’ London Special Leaders Award (LSLA), a national engineering competition. 

Our 2019 Year 4 trophy winner, Maya, designed a ‘smart sticker plaster’ for diabetic children that warns them of dropping blood sugar levels as well as alerting their parents using a phone app. Dalia, in Year 3, also won a trophy for her idea of electricity-generating pads in cycle paths. The pads would collect the energy from the moving bike and absorb it into the grid to produce green energy. Maya also received this year’s Siemens Prize and was declared ‘Overall Winner’ of the London Region. 

We deliver a weekly DT and computing STEM club where the girls develop an understanding of mechanical engineering using a simple series of circuits to automate their products. In the club, pupils have learned how to use LEGO WeDo and Crumble, creating and programming various creatures and vehicles using sensors to conquer challenging obstacle courses. 

Last year, our school undertook a huge development project in building a new Community Music Centre with an auditorium seating almost 500 people, as well as 15 practice rooms and music teaching rooms. Seizing this opportunity, the Prep School delivered an architectural masterclass for girls from Year 3 to Year 13, offering an opportunity to shadow the architectural stages of the development on site. Delivered in collaboration with architects Studio E and contractors Neilcott Construction, our pupils witnessed the architectural and building process first hand, receiving monthly architect’s presentations and onsite tours. In its final stages, the programme provided an opportunity for our girls to participate in the design process by designing the school playground. Pupils were also able to share their experiences and their final playground design to the wider school community in an assembly and were delighted to see their ideas realised a few months later. 


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