There has been a big focus in recent years on the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics as governments and schools try to prepare students for a modern, high-tech economy. But the complex challenges facing society pose new and profound questions about the skills students will need to thrive in the future. Good quantitative and analytical skills are still highly valued but increasingly employers want these skills to be accompanied with strong creative habits of mind, such as innovation, teamwork and creative problem solving.
Perhaps surprisingly, forward looking educators are now looking to the arts and creativity as indispensable in developing these skills. This approach is sometimes called STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths), and it isn’t just about sprinkling in some poetry classes. Work tends to be more interdisciplinary and project-based, with freedom to explore ideas, challenge convention and work in teams to find solutions.
Illuminated by the Future of Work report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), it’s thought that by 2020 “Creativity will be in the top three most important skills, alongside complex problem solving and critical thinking.”
Anticipating future challenges, Leighton Park School in Reading, UK, is combining its strengths in STEM and the Creative Arts to inspire students with a wealth of opportunities to develop their creativity, including an exceptional music programme, but also interdisciplinary learning approaches and a curriculum exploring real-world issues facing global industries and societies today. The school sees the STEAM approach as a central enabler in its mission to form young people of real character and confidence, with a determined desire to change the world.
Steven Ross Pomeroy, Editor of Real Clear Science, points to the world’s most esteemed awards as evidence that combining science and art has a pretty impressive track record: “Nobel laureates in the sciences are seventeen times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, twelve times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician.”
By readying young minds for the future, inspiring a love of learning and encouraging students to develop their creative talents, this co-educational independent school with Quaker values performs well above average. Leighton Park has been placed in the Top 100 Secondary Schools in England for students’ academic progress by the Department for Education (DfE) for the second year running, demonstrating that a forward-looking, creative curriculum can and should augment students’ academic attainment.
Strengthening student success with STEAM
“Young people must be engaged and inspired to ensure we grow the next generation of scientific talent. We can only do this through close collaboration between industry and schools such as Leighton Park, that focus on excellence in STEAM,” said Rohini Beavon, Clinical Scientist Lead (Director) at Pfizer Ltd.
Winning the national Community STEM Award in 2018 for their innovative iSTEM+ programme, a stand-out feature of the Leighton Park learning experience, is how the school connects students with industry, and specifically the real-world challenges facing industry today. Students are asked to work in groups to research these challenges, develop creative solutions and pitch their ideas back to the industry partners.
Alongside a vast range of academic options for Lower School, Senior School, Pre-Sixth and Sixth Form students, the STEAM elements complement students’ studies by encouraging them to think about the wider picture, and to think differently.
The school’s 90 co-curricular activities include over 30 music groups, reinforcing the school’s music for all philosophy, but also includes options like the Creative Science Club where students can work individually or as part of a team on an in-depth research project of their choice. Teachers help guide students and help them make connections with academics and people in industry who are working in that field.
Leighton Park students go on to a range of degrees and professional apprenticeships, reflecting the school’s unusual strength in both the sciences and arts. Forty-one percent of students went on to Russell Group Universities to study subjects like Aeronautical Engineering at Imperial College London or Physics at Oxford, while 38 percent of students went on to study creative degrees, such as music, design or art. Most tellingly, however, is the large number of students going on to degrees where students need strong quantitative skills and creativity, degrees like architecture and product design.
The current role of STEAM projects at Leighton Park
Right now, there’s an impressive array of STEAM projects under the umbrella of the award-winning ISTEM+ programme taking place at Leighton Park School.
There’s the inaugural Big Bang Interactive programme that brings together industry professionals, academic experts and cutting edge scientists to deliver a fascinating programme of ten hands-on workshops, anchored by a presentation.
This year, the interactive workshops covered different aspects of science, from artificial intelligence (AI) to best practice in the manufacturing of a new medicine.
According to Karen Gracie-Langrick, Deputy Head (Academic), the Big Bang Interactive is the largest Leighton Park STEM event to date.
“Like so many of our other engaging activities and events, this forms part of Leighton Park School’s vision to become a STEM Centre of Excellence by 2021. As a school, we are keen to involve students, teachers and industry experts across Berkshire and beyond in creating an interactive and fun STEM experience,” she notes.
Transforming students into STEAM Pioneers
Upon winning the HP Ripple Award, the school’s students continue to evolve as future-ready STEAM pioneers.
Students have also been inspired by a visit from Morgan Stanley Computer Analyst, Kelechi Adiele, as well as attending the Microsoft DigiGirlz national competition, taking part in the national IET STEM Faraday Challenge, CISCO events, enjoying numerous mathematics enrichment workshops and participating in the Team Maths Challenge.
Every learner here is treated as an individual, encouraged to carry their creativity, initiative and innovative spirit into their chosen fields and to share what they have learned. The school’s expansive outreach programme gives them the opportunity to share their knowledge and inspire similar approaches at local schools.
The STEAM Ambassadors programme has formalised this approach and gives students an important outlet to develop their leadership abilities. As a lead school for the National Centre for Computing Education and the only Yamaha Flagship Music Education Partner in Europe, Leighton Park has an exciting opportunity to share some of its practise in these vital subject areas.
Whether they want to be a code-savvy computer scientist, a globally-minded creative technician or an artistic entrepreneur who excels in the realms of science, engineering, technology and maths, the future is theirs for the taking at Leighton Park School.
Leighton Park is hosting their Annual Open Morning on Saturday September 28th 2019. There you’ll be able to meet their inspiring teachers, talk to impressive students and see for yourself the beautiful environment in which Leighton Park’s vibrant learning community resides. Find out more here.