2017 Building a Path to Engineer a Change- Part Two!



Every year since 1973 I’ve kept a diary and it has become customary for me to wrap up the last 12 months with an end of year review which I put online for the first time inDSCF0321 2016.

2017 was a heck of a year; it sure changed a lot of things for me. The way I perceive things, the way I strategize and the way I take action has changed.  Doing a year review is a great way to reflect upon oneself, and to be grateful.

But before I (eagerly) usher in 2018, I’m going to slow things down so you can reminisce with me through my year and catch up on all of the exciting achievements and updates that happened…So, without further ado, here are my memorable moments from 2017.


Looking back, it was important for me to keep my ongoing commitment in providing quality Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) experiences. Being such a busy year for us, we managed to engage in well over 20 STEM activities, visits and assemblies, which involved over 800 students. If you compare this to the 10 visits we managed in 2016, you can see how far we have come in a short space of time.

We became an affiliated school for the Arkwright Scholarships Trust, and from the 425 Scholarships awarded nationally to students this year, we were very pleased to have our very first scholar Laiba Khan.  A grant of £1200 to subsidise her sixth form studies as well as being paired up with a Mentor – a Professional Engineer for the next two years. Who will provide advice and guidance for her future study and career development which should set her on the path to a successful career in engineering.

I gave m20170927_191650yself a challenge also to get at least one pupil onto the Royal Society Destination STEM Medical mentoring scheme, a programme  aimed specifically to the Afro-Caribbean sector, with the hope and expectation that they will provide thorough leadership for the Institution in years to come.  I was very pleased when not one but two were successfully accepted.



This year was a big one for us teachers too as we were shortlisted for;

  • The Stem Learning Stem Club of the year, Project Enthuse Award
  • The Stem Learning Teacher of the Year Project Enthuse Award
  • Winning The Design and Technology Association (DATA) Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award,http://www.ilfordrecorder.co.uk/home/search?submitted=true&searchSlot=true&q=outstanding+teacher+edna+reilly&Submit=true. Every year the James Dyson Foundation and DATA pick the UK Design & Technology (DT) Teacher of the Year this year’s winner was our Head of D&T.
  • The icing on the cake for us was wining the Prestigious ‘Pearson Teacher of the Year’ Silver Award in a Secondary School. Waiting in anticipation at the Teaching Awards UK Ceremony finals at the East Wintergarden, in Canary Wharf which was televised on the BBC Heroes programme. To see if we could pick up the Gold – unfortunately it was not to be this time but thrilled to achieve Silver.   Collectively this is a phenomenal achievement by any standards and for everyone at the school, but what is more commendable is that these awards are a result of teamwork under the guidance of our amazing Subject Leader Edna Reilly.

However, this year in particular, has been a great one for me personally, as part of the British Science Association 30th Anniversary celebrations, I was honoured to receive an Honorary Crest Award.  This was presented to me at the House of Commons.   I was also shortlisted for The WES; Amy Johnson Award and received the Pearson’s Award for Teacher Assistant of the Year Certificate.  IMG_5042

I won’t lie, there have been times where I was overwhelmed by a nervousness, sick to my stomach, as well as living life being completely out of my comfort zone. Remembering the words of the late Carrie Fisher “You don’t have to wait to be confident, just do it and the confidence will follow”– no truer word.

To then learn that I was one of only three teachers nationally, who were shortlisted FullSizeRenderfor the ERA David Clark Prize/Award for Engineering, and then winning the runner-up  prize of £2,000, was very humbling, https://www.erafoundation.org/news/era-foundation-luncheon-lecture-2017/.

In terms of educational value, applying and becoming an ‘Associate school of The Royal Society’ was a fantastic achievement. Being a member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology Teachers Advisory Panel and taking part in testing the Web frames design in preparation for their new website was also insightful

Collaborations with external influence, partners and leaders in the field are very important and have played a huge part in engaging student and successes and the awards continued as students picked up,

  • The IBM / Nesta – The Longitude Explorer Challenge Day, Runner-Up Winners prize £1,000.  Our Team Pollutech comprising of three Year 9’s all aged13 developed an App to detect Polluted Air and direct users to less polluted routes, https://www.theengineer.co.uk/c2i-2017-winners-announced/
  • Fighting off tough competition from business leaders of large multi-national compa

    nies, and University competitors, Team Pollutech received a Highly Commended Award;  For The Engineer Collaborate to Innovate Award https://www.theengineer.co.uk/c2i-2017-winners-announced/

  • We hosted the first Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) Faraday Challenge Day Competition at the Ursuline, with Plashet Girls School as our guests and we won the regional 2017 trophy for the second year running.
  • One Year 13 pupil Floriane Fidegnon aged 18 was voted NCS Teen Idol 2017, on International Women’s Day
  • In partnership with Stemettes two pupils won the Grace Hopper Dreamforce STEM trip and spent eight days in San Francisco! An Awesome experience for both.
  • Two pupils received work experience on the Biggest Engineering project in Europe with Crossrail.
  • Invitation to display our sustainable Beauty and the Bees project about the depletion of bees, at the Royal Society Sustainable Exhibition alongside American Inventor Dr Lonnie Johnson

You know – providing inspiring, interactive experiences using STEM, the question is, do they work? Can one memorable experience make a tangible long-term difference in the perception, participation, and pursuit of STEM subjects by young people?  Quite simply, yes and we’ve been fortunate enough to see inspired students and their curiosity in action – following their experiences.

These platforms give our young women the opportunity to shout about the things they are doing in and out of school.  We want them to be inquisitive, figure things out, to really go for it and be truly enterprising in the broadest sense of the word.

It’s so great to see the positive impact and then to say to a pupil – “A year ago this was your progress – look at you now”!  Moreover, just for that moment all the hard work – it has been worth it.  Do we push boundaries and raise eyebrows ummm – Maybe, Hopefully, Definetly!!

For one pupil, Vanessa Madu, STEM instilled in her a determination to seize every opportunity it had to offer. News oIMG_9640f an offer to Cambridge to read Mathematics has been one of her rewards! Then again, what we are seeing now, through our programme and committed pupils like her are with all their hard work now follows the fruits of their labours. That sense that anything can happen now has permeated the whole school community, as you would imagine we have pupils knocking on our door – a reserved waiting list now to join the STEM Club!


ODSCF0320f all the events during 2017 one stood out above the rest, attending the 40th Anniversary of the IET Young Woman Engineer of the year Award, hosted by Carol Vordamon. It featured a panel of experts including Head Stemette Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon lamenting the lack of women in STEM, but also highlighting the wonderful work they are yielding today. In addition, as always IET never disappoints the food menu blew me away, and I took Anne-Marie’s advice and got my goody bag full of swag to impress my students!

Other stories which captivated me this year – include attending the Royal Society Soiree Summer Science Exhibition, and then there’s the awesome day out as the guest accompanying  Floriane Fidegnon (one of our Stem Champions) to the Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. This has to sit high on my most memorable moments, one that will live with me for many years. Floriane is a now a first year undergraduate at Warwick University reading Mechanical Engineering


Nonetheless 2017 has presented its challenges, while we have made significant progress in many areas, concluding our DT review and successfully integrating IT into the department.  We have also had to address some significant issues,  getting ready for progress 8 and the debate around the impact of the shift from letters to numbers in certain subjects is almost certainly still bubbling!

The introduction of the new single title GCSE D&T replaced with a new suite of qualifications represents a significant milestone in the history of the subject and a challenge for those teaching it.  The impact of EBacc has hit the creative subjects hard in take up, as reported between 2016 and 2017, and published by Ofqual.

As stated also by Engineering UK we will need 186,000 new engineers each year until 2024 to work on a wealth of new projects. The workforce of the future will need expertise in maths and science but also not forgetting in music, art, media, drama and many more subjects.  We still have a lot of work to do but we also feel we have a lot about which we can be pleased. This year in DT -STEM has had a massive impact on the subject, out of a school year of 120 we had a healthy 48 pupils opting to take the subject – outstanding!

On a more personal note the opportunities and joys of ageing,

I mentioned (earlier in Part One) that I would come back to my milestone further on, so as 2017 fades into memory I couldn’t review my year without a mention. I celebrated a big milestone birthday – 60 this year!   Not wanting a shebang, and as I dithered and considered how to mark it, but you know in the end – who is going to give you everything? YOURSELF! Therefore, and instead of, it’s going to be a celebratory 60th Y-E-A-R for me, trying new adventures and experiences not faced before!

As a result, I managed to squeeze in two holidays this year, I spoilt myself to the very best -First Class travel to St Lucia the land of my birth. (How the other half live – and how am I, going to go back – to flying Economy?) I also treated myself to a dose of even more sunshine with some sea – a Caribbean Cruise. Spending time with family over the festive period – is what makes Christmas so special, and what an awesome holiday it was! Both different holidays but equally memorable.

How do I feel about getting older? Well you can’t go anywhere without your bloody specs for one, weight gain another, but age has never really bothered me, it’s just a number as far as I’m concerned. But then it occurred to me while away watching people of the same age, just what a wonderful life stage this is. There is now more time, a little bit more money and if we are lucky a chance to try new adventures and experiences. As I did in St Lucia, snorkelling and climbing for the first time the Grand Piton Mountain.  I’ve always enjoyed walking long distances, but I got a real sense of achievement, especially when my Guide said to me that four people had died climbing. And then she told me- I might be too old!


Woah! – I questioned myself for a split moment – shall I do it? can I do it? will I do it? I was determined. It was a very brutal hike with no trekking pole and uneven rocky surfaces, and one that I underestimated. – Yes- I #DiditAnyway!  It took me 5 ½ hours, and what an exhilarating experience, the views were spectacular. Proof at 60 these trips are not beyond my capabilities.

To quote the actor Tom Hiddleson “You never know what’s around the corner. It could be anything. Or it could be nothing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other, and then one day you look back and you’ve climbed a mountain” – Yes, Yes, Yes!

A reminder that we can truly achieve anything we want, because everything – is possible, the only thing that holds us back is that little voice in our head telling us were not good enough. I’ve learnt to trust my intuition about when and what to do. You don’t have to do everything in one fell scoop, just plot out mini goals that you want to achieve. That hike was confirmation to me of my belief system.

Of course, at my age I would happily stay at home more – especially as I’m going to be a grandmother once again and something I may have to seriously consider. But I also love what I do, I love embracing all the opportunities STEM has to offer and watching how just one small gesture can influence and sometimes alter the course of thoughts in perhaps changing the world for the future.

So as we move forward on our journey towards achieving the Ursuline vision to remain a Centre of Excellence for STEM. I will be asking searching questions, listening carefully to the answers and, in new collaborations, constructing ways forward to achieve similar success and more.

Of course, the challenge is not just to find ways of forging and building more links, as well as maintaining continuity between our established partners, but to provide and add more wow factor to STEM experiences for all pupils within the school community. We all have a responsibility to build the pipeline for the future, the opportunities in Engineering at present for women are huge. So a target this year is not just to increase student numbers to consider engineering as a career but to also empower them, to consider other options.

STEM has been a wonderful discovery for us. I say give students the tools, show them a path and they will start to lead the way.

When all is said and done this is not just about winning trophies and awards, of course obviously great to be recognised – No – our job is to make sure we give our students every chance, it’s about showing pupils how best to seize opportunities, and it’s about getting young people inspired! Moreover, if we win a few awards along the way there is nothing wrong with a little bit of feel good factor either!

I am sure you will agree it’s been another stellar year jointly for Students, Teachers and the School whose crowning achievement in 2017 was proving! And one that surpassed my expectations!

With 2018 being The Year of the Woman and The Year of Engineering we will endeavour to continue banging the drum and improve the understanding of what engineers do, and showcase the amazing careers to the ones that are at the core of young people’s career decision making – Families!

So as I wrap up an incredible 2017 – I’ve shared one of the most eventful years for STEM at the Ursuline. Our goals remain the same to continue delivering sustainable, growth in STEM. We partnered with some of the best and brightest minds in the industry and together will continue to push the boundaries of a fruitful, impactful, inspirational STEM education.

I feel grateful once again to Stem Learning, Stemettes, Crossrail, IBM, and Nesta. The vast potential and possibilities at the Ursuline going into the new year and beyond is extremely exciting. I can’t help but get excited for what 2018 will bring.


In my first online review last year, I closed by quoting Sir Jack Petchey ‘If you think you can you can Never could a truer word be said, as evidenced by everything that has happened to date.  Looking forward, I have great confidence that remains the case.

If I could pin point three things in 2017, I learnt about myself that was reinforced.

  1. Try something new,
  2. Be Ready,
  3. Be Grateful, remember people will only invest if they believe and have faith in you!

My mantra for the New Year is …Get a handle on the life you want and go and get it” because everything is possible! If you don’t take it someone else will!

Of course, we are nothing without our students, the success of all this has to be measured by their achievements.

Thank you students for making 2017 one Amazing Year!DSCF0322

whilst we continue to build paths to engineer change, we have new partnerships lined up, and  2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year.

And last but not least, my vision for the future. Mmmm…. Just wait and see ……

Happy New ‘Year of Engineering’!!



Engineering UK,  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/stem-awards/innovation/year-of-engineering/



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