With the advent of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, the need to ensure our pupils are developing appropriate STEM skills is becoming more important. The term ‘fourth industrial revolution’ describes the change that is occurring with how we live, work and relate to one another as a result of the advances that are being made in the technology that we use on a daily basis.

Since the early 2000s, there has been growing concern within the UK about the supply of STEM skills in the workforce. It is estimated that the STEM skills shortage in the UK is costing the UK economy an average of £1.5 billion a year. Countries such as Australia, India and the United States are all placing greater emphasis on ensuring that their young people are being taught STEM skills to ensure that they are ready for everything that the future presents them with.

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But what do we mean by STEM and why are we now changing our focus in education towards a STEAM-focused curriculum? The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths. Engagement with these subject areas is seen by many as being central to a pupil’s success in the future.

There is an undeniable connection between the subject areas that are included in STEM frameworks, however there has been growing criticism that the focus on STEM excludes other necessary skills that young people will need in the future.

In 2006, the education researcher and practitioner Georgette Yakman developed a framework that was designed to include the arts within STEM education, and a new acronym, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics), was born.

For those working within STEM industries, the importance of the arts, creativity and innovation is obvious. Companies like Apple and Google actively promote strategies that allow their workers to collaborate and develop ideas and innovations that otherwise may be left undiscovered.

We are also seeing an increase in professional artists who are incorporating technological tools and scientific processes in their work. Heston Blumenthal is one notable example of someone who has utilised scientific knowledge and processes to work within a creative industry.

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At Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School, we have designed a STEAM curriculum that allows pupils to apply and incorporate their scientific and mathematical knowledge to at least one of the other STEAM content areas in every project that they complete. We recognise the importance of having a strong base of knowledge in science and maths in order for pupils to explore their creative and problem-solving skills.

Pupils will use this knowledge to design Rube-Goldberg machines that demonstrate different physical principles, whilst also being whimsical and fun to watch. They will develop their literacy and oracy skills to present their scientific findings in a way that both educates and engages their audiences.

Our pupils will also have freedom during their projects to express their own individual ideas and talents, to ask and answer the questions they have about the world around them, and to discover answers to questions that hadn’t realised they needed to ask. Through our STEAM curriculum, our pupils will learn that creativity and the arts are central to those subjects that are part of STEM and that in the future they will all have an important role to play in this field.

Doug Napolitano-Cremin will be Head of Science at Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School when it opens in September 2020. He has built a science curriculum at Prince’s Gardens that will develop in pupils a curiosity and enjoyment for science and will develop a strong foundation of knowledge about scientific ideas and concepts. Pupils will also develop the practical, mathematical and literacy skills that scientists must utilise to advance scientific knowledge and understanding.