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Full ‘Steam’ ahead for STEM careers in Liverpool

A LIVERPOOL entrepreneur is helping Merseyside schools and colleges to futureproof their teaching methods in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Jade Parkinson-Hill, 43, founded her virtual academy, Steam School, in 2018 to connect students aged nine to 14 with inspirational people from the worlds of Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Art and Maths.

Having previously hosted guest broadcasts from global brands such as Instagram and Google, demand for the online service has soared amongst local educators during lockdown.

Jade said: “I am proud that we have continued to support Liverpool schools during this difficult time by helping to lighten teacher workload and ‘edutain’ students with broadcasts from young entrepreNERDs hailing from all over Europe.

‘As businesses focus on rebuilding their revenues and limiting external travel, they won’t be available to support school aspirations, careers and employer engagement programmes; therefore, I am already planning next year’s curriculum with new platform features and planned missions.

This will support school leaders to deliver a blended and flexible curriculum with online alternatives, as championed in the Microsoft Reimagining Education Paper, in the event of any further shutdowns.”

At Liverpool College, Director of STEM and More Able Co-ordinator Sarah Doran has seen first hand the benefits of the Steam School approach.

“The advantage of Steam School is the calibre of people they have on their weekly broadcast,” she explained.

“Household names such as Pokémon and Fortnite simply don’t come to schools, but we can give our children very real and authentic meetings with professionals at the highest level through the platform.

Also, in a school of a thousand students, Steam School guarantees that every pupil has immediate and equal access to a live careers talk once a week either in the classroom or at home.

‘Having linked Steam School to our careers programme in Years 5 and 6, we also integrated the platform into our Computing lessons. Students have complete ownership of what tasks they want to do based upon specific talks and interests. For example, after the Pokémon talk, they were shown how their motion technology was designed and then explored how augmented reality applications could be used in the future. You can set optional homework through the website and, very often, the children do it. As a teacher, there’s nothing more rewarding than when children volunteer to do extra work!”

The week prior to lockdown, Liverpool College students had a lesson from Instagram in how they create filters.

“It was such a wonderful and well-received activity,” added Sarah, who has been working from home for the past three months. “Lockdown has given us the impetus to extend access to Steam School throughout Years 5-9, so every child can tune in, watch the broadcasts and apply their learning. Our pupils have also taken part in online assemblies – discussing the type of questions they would like answers to about new and emerging technologies which will help shape the future of the platform.”