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Young Londoners put their coding skills to the test today, as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, launched a range of innovative new initiatives to boost the take up science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.
The Mayor has joined forces with the LEGO Group and the Institute of Imagination to launch RE:CODE London, a new scheme which provides schoolchildren with a coding and robotics-based challenge to encourage them to think critically and solve problems around a real-world, London theme.
The first session kicked off today, with 450 pupils from primary schools across the capital designing and coding a LEGO® prototype robot which can help remove rubbish from the River Thames.
With women making up only 14 per cent of the STEM workforce in the UK, a key focus of the scheme will be to encourage more girls to consider a career in science and coding. A series of RE:CODE London events are planned over the coming school year, aimed at year five and year six students at primary school who are signed up to the Mayor’s free London Curriculum programme.
Sadiq Khan also unveiled plans for the first-ever Mayor’s London Scientist programme, which will nurture the next generation of young scientists and engineers across the capital by inspiring them to investigate London’s challenges – this could include projects to tackle air pollution or to support urban wildlife.
The new programme, the first of its kind in the UK, will fund up to 5,000 pupils who are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) sector to enter their projects for a national CREST Award – the top science award scheme for schoolchildren in the country.
Getting more Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) pupils to take up STEM subjects will also be a key focus, as people from BAME communities are significantly underrepresented in the STEM workforce, with just five per cent representation in the construction and engineering sector, and seven per cent in the energy sector. The grants will also help schools with other pupils who face barriers getting into the STEM sector, including schoolchildren who are less well-off and pupils with special educational needs.
From the outset of his Mayoralty, Sadiq Khan pledged to develop a city-wide STEM strategy and to make gender equality a focus by creating targeted opportunities for girls to excel in STEM subjects. Research suggests career choices are fixed as early as four years old, making it crucial that girls can see the contribution women make to science in order to raise their aspirations.
The Mayor will work with partners in business and education to enhance London’s STEM offer in schools, colleges and higher education institutions using his existing programmes.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I want every aspiring young scientist, engineer, computer coder and mathematician to be able to fulfil their potential and have the knowledge and skills they need to enter the workplace in the future. Too often careers like these seems closed off to particular groups and, as a result, there isn’t nearly enough diversity in the UK’s science and engineering workforce.
“Some of the most fascinating jobs in the world are in STEM and I want to see more girls and pupils from all backgrounds considering a career in this area. This initiative along with RE:CODE London and the London Curriculum will help to inspire pupils at a young age, developing London’s future workers, business leaders and entrepreneurs, on whose skills and capabilities future economic growth depends.”
Deputy Mayor for Education and Childcare, Joanne McCartney, visited the Institute of Imagination this morning to see the RE:CODE London project in action. She said: “It is the ambition of both the Mayor and I to see every child in London getting the best possible chance for happiness and success, and making the most of the city’s great opportunities. The role of education both in and out of school is critical in supporting children’s development and inspiring all pupils to reach their full potential.
“Too often, we hear of pupils saying that they find science interesting but that they don’t feel motivated to take it on as a subject. It was fantastic to see hundreds of London schoolchildren solving real-life problems through coding with the LEGO Group and the Institute of Imagination today. By engaging children of all backgrounds with real-life scenarios like this, we are debunking stereotypes at a young age and sparking an interest in STEM for life.”
Katherine Mathieson, Chief Executive Officer, British Science Association, said: “We’re delighted to be working with London Mayor Sadiq Khan on this brand-new STEM initiative, rewarding talented and hard-working young people across the capital, in partnership with the British Science Association’s prestigious and popular CREST Awards scheme.
“STEM subjects are crucial to the economic and cultural health of London, a city that is full of untapped potential. The Mayor’s London Scientist programme encourages young people from all backgrounds to engage in hands-on STEM project work. We hope that this gives students the opportunities and confidence to pursue STEM, not just as a potential profession, but a life-long interest.”
The Mayor’s London Curriculum programme already has a range of STEM resources for every primary school in the capital. The resources use the numerous historical and contemporary cutting-edge examples of scientists, engineers and mathematicians who have worked in their fields to create innovative solutions to problems throughout the world. There are nine key stage thee STEM teaching resources that cover topics from London’s air, to the bridges that cross the River Thames, to how technology has developed to help move the growing number of people around the city. All three of the key stage 2 units cover science topics.
Kathrine Kirk Muff, Vice President of Social Responsibility at the LEGO Group, said: “We want to enable children to shape their own future, by imagining it and then building it brick by brick – and we know children learn best when they are also playing and having fun.
“By combining the physical play experience with digital coding, we release the potential to bring abstract challenges to life in a fun way. This hands-on approach is what really engages students and ignites effective and lifelong learning.”
Gareth Binns, Chief Executive of the Institute of Imagination said: “Every child is born with the capacity to imagine – but today children today have less time and space than ever to flex their imaginations and the skills children need for the future are changing.
“We’re creating a climate where ideas can thrive. A new way to develop future generations of makers and creators, not just consumers. The Institute of Imagination Campus will be a public space that prioritises this crucial skill of imagination, with children at heart and of interest to everyone.
“To bring the Institute of Imagination to life, we’re working with a wide range of experts and organisations and – most important of all – children. RE:CODE London is a wonderful example of how we can spark children’s imaginations through innovative partnerships and we’re proud to support the Mayor of London to bring the London Curriculum alive by hosting these events at our current home, the Imagination Lab.”
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