Annual reach: 60,000 pupils and 3,800 teachers engage annually with Primary Engineer Programmes; Primary Engineer and Secondary Engineer Leaders Award reached 37,000 pupils in 2018.
Aims/outcomes: engagement with practical maths and science; creative problem-finding and solving; literacy; role models; links with engineering careers; developing teachers’ STEM teaching ability
How: Leaders Award, teacher CPD, links to engineers and class-based projects.
What began as a DTi-funded pilot in 13 schools in Lancashire and Yorkshire in 2005 has developed into a national programme of activity, reaching nearly 1000 schools annually and supported by local councils, industry partners and universities.
Primary Engineer operates a “STEM by stealth” approach - meaning that STEM concepts are applied practically, often in creative and design activities, and in ways that build not only STEM knowledge but literacy, vocabulary, and understanding of broader issues such as climate change. CEO Susan Scurlock characterises Primary Engineer’s work as “cross-curricular project-based learning”, with an emphasis on whole class engagement.
Programme activities fall into three overlapping categories. The first is the Leaders Award, which engages children directly, challenging them to identify a problem and use engineering principles to address it. The second is the teacher professional development strand, through which the organisation offers courses to build teachers’ capacity to incorporate particular methods and technologies into their classroom practice; Primary Engineer also offers a PGCert in STEM learning in partnership with the University of Strathclyde.
Third is engagement between children and current engineers through school visits, Skype interviews and Leaders Award events. In this, Primary Engineer emphasises the importance of exposing children to a cross-range of engineers: both in terms of the type of work they’re involved in, and in terms of characteristics such as gender, ethnicity and background.