What Makes Engineering at the Abbey Unique?
With STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) being championed by the Department for Education, most schools are fulfilling their statutory requirements by supplementing their regular lessons with extra-curricular activities or the occasional STEM day from an external provider. This tends to result in engineering being particularly side-lined as an ‘add-on’ or ‘one-off’ activity, rather than the core of STEM that utilises science and maths to create technology. The Abbey is therefore a pioneering school in the UK, championing engineering as a stand-alone subject at prep level.
Why Study Engineering?
“Scientists investigate that which already is; Engineers create that which has never been.”
This is what we hope to foster at The Abbey – young girls and boys who can use the knowledge and skills they have been taught and turn them to practical use.
At every level of Woodbridge School we are asking ‘How are our pupils going to respond in an ever changing world?’ and our Learning@Woodbridge philosophy was developed to answer that question. Engineering at The Abbey exploits this to challenge and excite our pupils whilst developing their innovation, creativity, analytical and team skills. It will be these attributes that set them apart from the rest and contribute to their future success.
Social conscience is another powerful reason. The government have found that “Females are underrepresented in most STEM subject areas” in the UK workplace. As educators we have a responsibility to address such issues and promote inclusivity.
“I love engineering, and that I have the opportunity to become an engineer – something I had never considered before. We are encouraged to fail, make mistakes and then think about how to make things work.”
Eliza, Year 6 pupil
This sentiment that failure is just a step on the road to success, famously shared by engineers such as Thomas Edison: “I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that didn’t work.”
If engineering can foster this kind of attitude in our pupils, they will undoubtedly become resilient adults.
Some benefits of studying engineering are more obvious, such as developing useful tool skills, practical health and safety, constructive collaboration and seeing a plan come to completion; but it is no exaggeration that it will be up to the engineers of the future to create the designs that benefit humanity or confront environmental issues with real and concrete solutions.
Put simply, Engineering is important.
How is our Engineering Curriculum Designed and Delivered?
Being in such a unique position has allowed us to create a thoroughly bespoke curriculum based around the main branches of engineering:
• Mechanical engineering
• Electrical engineering
• Chemical engineering
• Computer science engineering
• Civil and structural engineering
• Aeronautical engineering
• Environmental engineering
Each module has a branch focus but these inevitably cross over; however, environmental themes permeate everything that we study.
We also have the advantage of being entirely flexible, adapting to changes in the other subjects or responding to local and global issues. Specific themes or skills from the other curriculum subjects are developed, such as the Year 5 pupils’ exploration of the Normans has been enhanced by studying the engineering of siege engines, such as onagers and mangonels. Engineering has also formed a close relationship with our Forest Schools, constructing tables, benches and saw horses for their use.
The subject is taught to all pupils in Year 5 and Year 6 with a maximum class size of 10, which has obvious advantages. All the lessons are delivered by the Head of Engineering, who has a degree in business and engineering, experience as a project engineer and the necessary tool use qualifications to deliver the subject safely and expertly. Each pupil will study three modules that begin with a health and safety and tool skills session followed by the introduction of a challenge or problem to be solved, either as an individual or part of a group. Following the school’s Learning@Woodbridge values, most modules encourage complete freedom of design, material selection and construction rather than restricting pupils to sets of instructions or kits and the pupils are facilitated, rather than instructed how, to reach an outcome.
We are rightly proud that we are therefore producing real engineers.
Enhancing Through Extra Curricular
The school’s enthusiasm for engineering has developed beyond structured lessons and The Abbey now boasts Engineering Leaders among our Year 6 pupils’ responsibilities. They have taken-to-heart that engineering can have a positive impact on our carbon footprint. Our leaders actively recycling as much of the schools paper waste each week as possible and we hope to explore other environmental issues in the future.
Car mechanics club has been running at the school for many years now for pupils who have an interest in how cars work and wish to learn some basic maintenance skills. These skills have included: how to change a flat tyre and how to run a basic service. Club goers have the opportunity to practise these on a 1966 Series 2 Land Rover.