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NCCE and STEM Ambassadors aim high in the North East

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Pupils and teachers at North East primary schools are the first to benefit from a collaboration aimed at ensuring young people are equipped for the digital future.

STEM Learning partnered with The Society for Entrepreneurial Education and Development (SEED), after the charity provided technology to school pupils in the Aim High Academy Trust, enabling them to study from home during the recent Covid-19 lockdowns.

An Enthuse Partnership, facilitated by STEM Learning, will involve a combination of STEM Ambassador activity and computing science CPD within the Trust schools, which are all within the former Coalfields area of Sunderland, over the next two years.

The North East STEM Ambassador Hub and the Kings Priory NCCE Computing Hub will work together to deliver the programme, which aims to ensure the teachers and pupils can maximise the use of the technology in learning.

Neil Burn, Director of Teaching and Learning at the Trust said: “'Aim High Academy Trust understands the vital work we must do to prepare our children for the ever-changing digital world we live.

“To the raise the aspirations of our young people is a key strategic aim. We are determined to provide pupils the necessary skills that enable future opportunities within STEM, and to equip staff to deliver this curriculum effectively.”

It comes as research from The Carnegie Trust and UNICEF found that the return to the classroom risks the de-prioritisation of efforts to close the digital divide at a time when extracurricular and non-academic work will become increasingly digitally focussed.

Young people in the North East already face significant challenges from digital poverty. The Office for National Statistics found that the region has the highest percentage of people in England with both zero basic digital skills and no internet access.

The coach for the Enthuse Partnership is Sarah Zaman, a primary subject matter expert (SME) working with Kings Priory. After carrying out an audit to assess the needs of the schools Sarah will work directly with the STEM Ambassador Hub on identifying a programme of STEM Ambassador activity for the pupils that can be directly linked to the CPD Kings Priory will provide for the teachers.

This will enable the teachers to use the STEM Ambassador activities the pupils have been involved in as a basis for their teaching back in the classroom, while linking it to the curriculum.

While this is a pilot, going forward it is intended this will be used as the model for a similar approach to schools, which have either been provided equipment by charities such as SEED or have equipment already, but which is underutilised. There will be a joint approach by the STEM Ambassador Hub and relevant computing hub to these schools to offer a similar model of support.

SEED donated 60 Raspberry Pi’s and Monitors, along with cameras and headphones to pupils at the Aim High Trust schools.

One of the Trust schools reported that since January 2021, when the equipment was supplied by SEED, pupil engagement in online teaching, which had been at 32 per cent in the first lockdown, increased rapidly to 78 per cent and remained consistent after that.

In addition, a parental survey conducted showed 83 per cent of children were completing over two hours of home learning.

Digital poverty is directly linked to deprivation indices. Many areas of the North-East are amongst the most deprived in the country, and lower income makes it far less likely that those households will have access to technology and the internet.

Around half of households with an income of £10,000 or less have no internet access and the North East Child Poverty Commission found that more than 1 in 3 children in the region’s classrooms were living in poverty over the three years prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Carnegie Trust and Unicef found that even before the pandemic, digitally excluded young people aged 11-18 were likely spending 60 fewer hours every year learning online at home than their peers.

In its report it stated: “In the UK, equal access to the digital environment is not available to all children and young people and this is holding children in some of the most marginalised situations back from reaching their full potential.

“Every day spent without adequate access to the digital world sees these children fall further behind their peers.”