2016 A Window of Opportunities

I’ve had a few days to reflect before I wrap up this year and take stock of the lessons I have learnt.  It’s  been  a year we’re unlikely to forget for a while, that’s for sure. Brexit happened and made me question this country’s values and the biggest political surprise of 2016 – Trump!

But I remember in 2015, my New Years resolution was to say ‘yes’ more, which is how I ended up challenging myself and listening to my gut instincts, that’s been an important lesson to learn.

In every challenge there lies opportunity. But, when I look back to the many opportunities I have had, to make a change, but never took them, I ask myself did I lack confidence? Maybe. Was I scared? Perhaps. However, that should not have stopped me, because  I’ve come realise if you want things to change, it really lies within yourself to make things happen. When the time calls, You and only you will have to go out there and seize those opportunities,  because with change – comes opportunities and as a result. this is what happened!

There have been many milestones reached, awards awarded, and achievements achieved. With four hats to juggle in my day to day work, Art, Design & Technology Technician, Instructor and STEM Coordinator.  I cannot deny, it’s been a long, tough but exciting year and proof, that nothing is impossible – the impossible just needs that extra effort!

My firm belief is that the key to a good link is the relationship between who you surround yourself with and the strong connections in your industry. I have met some amazing people who have put their trust and belief in me, that has meant so much and I am so grateful to them. Thank you all for this encouragement to continue this important work.

Research suggests that students actually retain a great deal of factual information from their visits, and are able to recall details about what they had seen at a very high rate.  The refreshed content, resources and vision meant that students were being constantly pushed and stimulated.

This turned into an exciting one at Ursuline, a year of enrichment days engaged every year group in the school, starting early in the year with the pilot #GirlsinSTEM event organised by @Stemettes and @Accenture.

To celebrate Careers week we invited role model keynote speakers from the industry (Skanska) to deliver assembly about engineering.

The School Featured in the Salesforce World Tour documentary video. Followed by further inspiring Stemettes and Accenture partnership ‘Stem in a Day’ visits.

Big wins for 2016, we were Regional and National winners of the Micro:bit Faraday Challenge.

A dedicated team entered the Dulux £5,000 @smarterspace competition with less than two weeks to deadline, and went on to become the national winners! The Prize an inspirational Design and Technology classroom makeover. A great testament to their dedication.

Pupil wins out of this world trip to Grace Hopper for women in Texas, courtesy of Stemettes

Two pupils out of 9 nationally, were selected to be part of the inugural IET Junior Board

Pupils become keynote speakers at major STEM events, ie: Imperial College and Cambridge University.

To spread the word amongst their peers, pupils arranged their own STEM school assemblies.

A great testament to pupils contributions, we started to see our very own pupils reaping and winning their own individual STEM awards! BYA.

Apprenticeships is now seen as a real opportunity and during Apprenticeship week, Crossrail arranged a Civil Engineering Awareness day, so inspired, two pupils applied, one applicant was successful in her application. We now have our first Civil Engineer Apprentice.

Pupil features in a  BBC Digital innovative STEM video

A visit to the Wearable Technology show at ExCel, inspires pupils content for their GCSE coursework, and in light of the English inaugural, for the first time ever, D&T GCSE Graphic Product subject is oversubscribed!

Brilliant news – Crossrail have set up work experiences days in the new year, for pupils. This will increase work-based learning, There’s no place like workplaces within STEM industries to see STEM in action. Even better, this points to what we need more of, in order to fully develop the Next Generation Career Pathways.

Two pupils received interviews to both Oxford and Cambridge one to read Mechanical Engineering the other Maths,  and many others applying in some form of engineering as a career. I would like to think I have played a small role in that process.

Needless to say It’s been a very busy year!

Young people need to be inspired, engaged, and dazzled. This is nothing new. However, we must all try to do a better job with the tools that we have available to us now more than ever. I am now personally invested to help them understand that its the small tiny steps that form the platform for bigger success I am very excited about the future.

Most importantly, I have always taken what I have learnt and shared it with my colleagues to ensure that whatever – they are equipped to deliver the best possible service/lesson to their students.  The immense thrill of being able to seek opportunities for others, and seeing them flourish, whilst watching them manage their own network and then watching them winning their own STEM awards is a real joy.

Last year, I made the decision to apply and take part in the pilot STEM Insight industrial work placement for teachers with te biggest engineering project in Europe.  I underestimated the extent to which it would benefit me. I soon realised it was going to give me a lot more than I originally anticipated, not only did the placement provide me with essential experience, the people I met and the development opportunities I was given were priceless. It inspired me to have confidence to go beyond my own expectations, and achieve outcomes which quite frankly, have astounded me. I’ve been able to do things I thought I would never be able to do.

I take inspiration and learn from the things that don’t work so well. We are all inspired by other people; I am inspired by many, many more than I can list, people who run big businesses and small, CEO’s, Managing Directors, even walking into a coffee shop, I can be inspired, but who would have thought Crossrail would have inspired me and given me the opportunities to help impact pupils in their choices for their careers.

Embracing this educational opportunity, I  pride myself on the fact that one of the great benefits of these kind of collaborations is that I always learn something. To me,  a great system is one where all parties work towards a collective goal and therefore can drive the same message forward.  I feel this only,  truly works when both parties interact well together, Crossrail and Stem Learning have been influential partners.

Yes a good relationship between education and the industry is key to building a successful connection. That maybe could have been the reason why as part of Baccalaureate focus on how best to fill the skills gap in essential skilled engineering occupations, and the actions needed.  Why I was  invited to share a few words of wisdom about my experiences to influential politicians, stakeholders and professors. As a keynote speaker at a series of parliamentary events about inspiring the next generations of engineers and to raise awareness of the STEM insight programme.

Starting with Westminster, then at Sineed Cardiff and then finally onto the Scottish Parliament. Many thanks  to Peter Finegood from Imeche, Lauren Hillier at Crossrail and Gemma Taylor at Stem Learning,  this would not have been possible without taking part in the programme which have consequently opened many doors for our pupils.

As a result the profile of the school has been raised, our whole school approach to STEM has transformed the learning environment of other subjects, all wanting to offer similar enriching programmes.

I became a Published Author for Innovate my school about my work in STEM,

Several request to write blogs for Stem Learning about my STEM Insight experience.

Another priceless opportunity rose to be a Keynote speaker for the Royal Society for their STEMM mentoring programme, which is an additional role I took upon this year.

I was very touched, to learn in March this year, my Headteacher called me into her office to announce that she was nominating me for the Jack Petchey Leaders Award, then to be notified that I had won the award plus £750, which went towards purchasing our newest tech a 3D printer. Really meant an awful lot to me.

Then two further awards followed, I found out that I had been nominated and won the DATA Exceptional Support for Design And Technology,

later on in the year I won the Project Enthuse Award, this hat trick of national accolades brought home in 2016,  marked a pinnacle of achievement in our STEM journey that I set out six years ago with a vision to engage as many our young ladies to consider engineering – especially as a career.

To be collaborative and ensure we are constantly involving and interacting with our networks, so that we can learn from them and gather ideas to help build and grow our STEM club forward in the best direction, into the future is going to be exciting. It has been a privilege for me and this is something I am looking forward to continue to do with these great industry partners.

Moving forward,  I’m confident that even more pupils will be drawn to our shared vision that the next generation should be able to enjoy an environment that’s getting better – a safer climate, healthy air, water and food, we need 850,000 engineers every year for the next 10 to 15 years, a staggering amount, to help improve and tackle the worlds problems.

I have met some incredible people who have  both encouraged, challenged and believed in me to be the best I can. I was also able to start my own business, that took great strength, belief and confidence, but I conquered my fears and was able to take the risk!

If I could pin point three things in 2016, I learnt about myself. One, how determined I am.  Two, how mentally strong I am. And Three, Always be ready, when opportunity knocks , seize it, it could be the first or only chance, and the one you have been waiting for.

I will remember the year 2016, as the year when, every opportunity I said yes to, although admittedly, it felt I was well out of my comfort zone, certainly not in my natural space. but in the words of the late Carrie Fisher ” you don’t have to wait to be confident, just do it it and the confidence will follow” oh boy – my word how true.

The next year will present great challenges, but the past 12 months shows that with support, persistence, motivation, discipline, determination and a bit of hard work, things can make a real difference.

My highlight for me though, this year has to be when I recieved my Jack recieved Leaders award. Siting amongst such an inspirational group of our students who have all shown exceptional levels of talent, dedication and achievement. It was fantastic to share this experience with our young award winners. It is a moment I shall always remember! 

So as another eventful year has almost passed it has been a year with boundless opportunities and I am excited at the prospect in the coming year, as the school announced two weeks ago that as part of the whole school development plan. The school will remain a centre of excellence for STEM. I hope at the end of next year we will be able to share our success, ideas and good practice.

Everyday the World is becoming a more technological World, and while we are proud of the impact our collaborations with Stemettes, Crossrail and STEM Learning have made,  we will continue to ask ourselves important questions, how can we increase that impact in 2017. Our vision reminds us there is much still to be done!

On a personal note, as 2016 comes to a close and as I prepare to celebrate with my family and look forward to embarking on our own STEM build project here in Las Vegas, and we look forward to 2017, I will end on this note.

Take a chance on yourself, Believe in yourself. Bet on yourself, never stop believing you can.  And in the words of Sir Jack Petchey.

“if you think you can you can”

Happy almost New Year 2017!