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Locomaths November 2018

IMG_5088Just spent the morning trying to work out how to bottle enthusiasm because Whale Hill and Acklam Whin pupils seem to have it in abundance! Wow they have hit the ground running as the latest groups of pupils to take on the Locomaths Challenge. Based on the real life challenge of creating anew railway route through a country the children have to work out costings, test alternative routes, evaluate impact, both social and environmental and present it all to the group (and this web page) by 2pm. I have no worries that they will succeed magnificently.

As usual, events here are based around team working skills, applying existing knowledge and working out creative solutions to problems. Three of our teams today are even mixed schools so the pupils really have to develop their ability to mix and work effectively with other children they have never met.

And here are the presentations:

Scrapheap October 2018

IMG_4959Well the Halloween craziness has started early here at I2L and the looks on the faces of the pupils from St Benedicts, Saltburn and Ormesby Primaries was a joy to behold! It set the tone: you are here to be creative…..and creative they have been. It is often a challenge when we invite multiple year groups to the same event. Pitching the stimulus right is a balancing act but one that we think we are particularly experienced at.

You can see from the pictures below that every group has been full of ideas and are now in the process of bringing those to life as I type. The focus again has been on the key skills that you need in a workplace such as effective listening, compromise, collaboration etc and there will be prizes at the end of the day based on that. As usual we will also be treated to each group presenting their work at around 2pm this afternoon on this webpage.



Videos will follow soon due to a technical hitch but you can see from the pictures below taken during the afternoon that the enthusiasm didn’t abate. Several children from each school were also chosen to receive an Inspire2Learn t-shirt for showing an exemplary teamwork ethic. But believe me, it was hard to choose, all pupils worked really hard, in  really effective teams.



Aspiration: Making a difference

It might not feel like it when you spend 20mins talking to a group of 13 year olds about what you or your company do all day long, but the research evidence suggests you make a massive difference to the rest of their lives. I won’t spend time discussing the various pieces of research here (but if you are interested please visit here) but trust me, the evidence is weighted heavily in favour. And so it was that today we welcomed Sharon and Sophie from Resolution Communications, Kirsten and Lily from PD Ports, Erika from Nifco, Vicky and Sarah from South Tees NHS, Wendy from the Civil service, two incredibly enthusiastic ambassadors from Teesside University and Leanne from CUBIC to speak to over 200 children split into small groups over the course of the day. Yes some are always going to be more switched on to the opportunity than others but the feedback from staff (we had 8 schools over the course of the day) was really enthusiastic. These events are based on what the research evidence suggests has meaningful impact and have been running successfully for the past three years. Half the year focusses on Y8s and the other half on Y5, which we also know from lots of previous experience has a huge impact.

The speakers were mixed in that some had been to events previously and some were here for the first time, after trying many times to fit us into their busy diaries. I get lots of of apologies from people who can’t make our events but I reassure them that it isn’t necessary. When people can come, they do and it is a growing set of maybe 200 businesses that are represented from the Tees Valley across the year. Each does a handful of events at most but by sharing the burden the provision grows. It is a real feature of the Tees Valley business community that the number of well supported events that we run has grown considerably in the four years we have been running them. Around 10 000 pupils benefitted from our programme last year and this is on course to be surpassed in 2018. Thank you to you all for your continued support.

And if you haven’t been yet? Just let me know…

Locomaths October 2018

IMG_4866I know that when our courses were first advertised, Locomaths was a bit of a slow burner in terms of bookings. I think many schools only booked on when they saw the waiting lists on everything else. It was a shame in a way because the activity is a real life application of both maths and english. The pupils have to take the role of building a section of HS2. They are given a 4m map showing various features: countryside, town, wetlands, rivers etc and they have to plan a route across it using a wooden train set. Of course every piece costs money and crossing various features also multiplies the cost. Crossing a river for example multiplies the cost by 5 for that piece of track. The children are encouraged to plan at least three different routes and also consider the environmental and social implications of each route. They will be presenting to camera what their preferred option is in a few m minutes and it will be uploaded on to here by 3pm. The task involved teamwork, a clear plan of work, practical application of maths and english and also the opportunity to present effectively. I have been particularly vocal about that so far today because I want the pupils to present effectively, not just stand in a line reading off a sheet of paper so they ‘get a go’.

Today we have pupils from Acklam Whin and St Paulinus. You can see from the pictures below the level of engagement and it we have had some lovely feedback from the teachers so far today. If you want to see children applying maths and English in context, this is the event!

We have spent time today ensuring that the teams think hard about their presentations. Do you need everyone on camera? What are you showing as graphics? How can you avoid simply reading off a piece of paper? You will see below that the pupils really took this on board with the support of their teachers and it was lovely to see use of cue cards, simplified graphics and even use of film (ideally we would have had it on a big screen which was difficult in because of the way that I filmed it but I loved the idea).

And now the presentations:

STEM Boats October 2018

IMG_4853We enter a run of three busy pupil days here at I2L with three fabulous schools, Whale Hill, Handale and William Cassidi attempting the STEM boats challenge. As usual the aim of the day is to build a boat with a sail that will race down our drainpipe canals. However with a bit of direct input each design decision needs to have been made through rigorous testing. We started the first session with a whole group exploration of using the Post-It method for defining variables in a test situation. This allows the pupils to understand what needs to be controlled, what changed and what measured. After a quick break the pupils have then been asked to apply this systematic way of working to create the best sail boat that they can – with evidence! The pictures below show the level of engagement that this has created. A strong teamwork ethos runs through the day and it is lovely to see all of the pupils getting involved.

I’d also like to add a special mention to some STEM ambassadors that are helping out today. Hillsview Academy have created the role (and in other areas of the curriculum too) and the successful ambassadors have had to submit a letter of application followed by a rigorous interview by SLT. They represent the school on various projects and at events. I can categorically recommend them to anyone who would love some brilliant role models from one of our local secondary schools to come and work with you, whether that is in a primary school or the wider community. A teacher from one of the attending schools today was incredibly complementary about the way that the older students had support her class. When we hear that young people from schools don’t have effective communication skills, engagement in activity or problem solving skills I would invite you to come and see this lot in action. I’d employ them tomorrow!

And congratulations to our winning team who made the ‘Speedy Moose’. Not only were they fastest but they took the time to show other iterations of their design and explain the testing that they had done to ensure they had the best boat available in the time scale. I couldn’t have plan ned it better! The strongest scientific approach probably produced the winner. Real engineers of the future I reckon.


VEX Challenge No1

How do you clear leaves from Trainlines? Well, Network Rail have some solutions in place but could our younger generation of engineers come up with something better?

So today 8 of our VEX teams from across the Tees Valley were challenged to do just that. They were given the luxury of creating their own rails (60cm long) because maybe the design of the rail structure is part of the solution. They then had to think about how their VEX bots could be adapted to solve the problem. We have steered away from the coding use of the robots in our challenges because there are so many possibilities for problem solving and creativity purely from the engineering side. The children have really risen to the task and several were a bit loathe to go for lunch. Having last night attended the latest Q4 debate that showcased how bright the future, especially in engineering, is for our younger generations in the Tees Valley, this sort of approach seems to me a sensible one. In a few years when some of the world’s most innovative, large scale engineering projects come online due to the work currently being done by Tees Valley Combined Authority and the South Tees Development Corporation, these are the very children who should be taking many of the fantastic careers available. Events like these are used to both develop problem solving skills and creative thinking whilst linking their work to what is going on with local industry.

Besides we have plenty of coding days to look forward to!

Here are some of the images from today:

Enterprise the Early Years

Well, not quite! Today we welcomed pupils from Rift House, Wynyard and Saltburn at our KS1 Enterprise event. Unlike the more ‘marketing; focussed KS2/3 version this day event takes into account the stage of development that the children are at. With a real focus on understanding other people, the structure almost encompasses as much PSHE as it does creating a product. Knowing your own thinking is a key part of any enterprise work and that is where we started this morning.

However, we soon got onto working collaboratively using the excellent We Create LEGO sets:

We then used our new way of communicating ideas to devise a new LEGO set that was aimed at our teachers. This took the focus away from thinking about ourselves and into thinking about what other people’s needs were. The children planned their creations based on what they had come up with earlier about what their teachers were interested in. Very quickly at the end we also did a quick photo and voice over and hopefully we should have some of those uploaded later today.

Making the Curriculum Relevant

IMG_4557Another day, another exciting event for pupils to attend. Friday saw the focus on English as a subject. How is it useful in the workplace? What do students need to know about care and attention to choice of words?

We welcomed four fantastic session leaders. Claire Preston from Lexonik showed us why the work she does with schools has such an impact on their literacy skills. It focussed on choice of vocabulary in a real ‘pitch’ type scenario. Debi led a session based on effective communication from her standpoint as a nurse representing James Cook hospital. Emily Bentley from Communicate has been trying to get to one of our days for ages and she certainly didn’t disappoint. Again, a focus on effective choice of words in a real marketing scenario brought authenticity as well as engagement. And last but certainly not least, our two student ambassadors from Teesside Uni led a session using Romeo and Juliet as the basis for discussion, writing and even some performance. The pupils (mainly Year 8) from Abbey Hill, Northshore, Hollis, Rye Hills and St Peters were absolutely brilliant in their attitude and although the day was full on, they remained enthusiastic right until the end of the last session and were a credit to themselves and their schools.

Days like this are important in linking the everyday curriculum ‘why are we learning this?’ to the real world of work and more Ethan once I was told ‘I’d employ a few of them’. Coming and working at Inspire2Learn is a different experience or the pupils. They are often in groups mixed with other schools and during the day they mingle with other users of the centre who are there for meetings or training. It is a great midway point between the real workplace and school. Emily as always was really apologetic that it had taken her so long to come and do one but she is sooooo wrong! She made a difference with the day that she could do. Yes we would love her back every week but if she does that day and another company does another day and another a different one the burden on business diminishes but the pupils get a fantastic deal. We will probably surpass last year’s total of students engaged by the time we reach December but even if we reach eleven or twelve thousand pupils we are still way short of the 95 000 in the Tees Valley. A little support by a lot of businesses will make a huge difference and very much supports TVCA’s aim to engage 1000 businesses. I think we can do better than that if the ask is one day a year.

Just time to catch our breath over the weekend and on to KS1 Enterprise….

Bring It On 2.0

5e31da22-7595-4962-8fdf-a334c15301cb-1344-0000011e1a389657_fileWhat a fabulous two days we have had! Around 3000 pupils from hundreds of schools across the NE descended on the new Beacon of Light in Sunderland to discover what an exciting place the NE is for engineering. Over 60 employers ranging from huge companies like Komatsu down to small but perfectly formed Games companies have sent staff and activities to what is the biggest event of its kind in the area, possibly the UK. As many of you will know Inspire2Learn have been involved with Bring It On since the beginning. We see it as an amazing flagship event which complements our year round programme brilliantly. Day 1 was primary day followed by KS3 on Day 2. We streamed live for both days as a stop gap but with these sort of events we really wanted to showcase the engagement from both the employers and the pupils. Below are some of the videos that we created to show why such events are so important. Talking about skills gaps and lack of awareness is an important first step to solving the problem, however, we seem to have been talking about it for a very long time. The research is becoming clearer by the day to structure how to tackle the problem and events like this fit that mould perfectly. If you weren’t here for either of these days you really shouldn’t miss out next year!

See what you are missing!

Day 1

And on to Day 2. What do the employers think?

What did our disengaged teenagers think? Can’t seem to spot many hiding behind the obvious enthusiasm…

I’m pretty sure the future is in exceptional hands…



STEM Boats

Another day, another new activity! Today we have had two schools trying out the new STEM Boats event. The pupils are given a basic boat and some ‘river test tracks’ and time to work out the best design to make their boat the most efficient. We are using wind….er….fan….power today so one of the variables that they have been focusing on is the size of the sail. Number of masts, shape of sail, height of sail etc are also areas that some of the pupils have been focusing on to achieve the best result.

We began the day focussing on control of variables so that we can test what effect each change makes but we also have an expectation that the designers amongst the children will also add a bit of design bling too.

The day will end in sail boat races with the ultimate winners crowned our September champions.

Here is what it looks like on the ground: