Universities and industry need to collaborate more closely with schools to engage pupils and encourage the next generation of engineers and other key professionals, according to researchers at the University of Leicester.
Academics from the university have recently completed an evaluation of a prestigious EU-funded programme, in which the national aeronautical institutes in Germany, Belgium, Romania and Italy worked with primary and secondary schools on real-life projects, lessons and workshops relating to flight and aviation.
They included topics such as “how do aeroplanes fly?” and “how do you ensure the safety of passengers?”.
Drs Maarten Tas and Frankie McKeon, at Leicester’s School of Education, acted as pedagogical advisors and evaluated the REStARTS programme over three years. No UK schools were involved because there are no such institutes here, and similar work is done by universities and private companies.
They found that the project had instilled an understanding and appreciation of engineering in young people, as well as science and physics in a wider context at a time when students across Europe were shunning these subjects.
Dr Tas said: “We believe that this sort of collaboration is the way forward in addressing the intellectual needs of some industries. The institute researchers had an opportunity to work with schools, but crucially teachers and pupils experienced new opportunities in the teaching and learning of the STEM subjects.
“Pupils worked alongside the researchers and developed an understanding of what their work was about. It was very exciting for them and inspired an interest and love of physics.”
Dr Tas added: “This has implications for British schools, even though they were not involved in the project, because it showed the importance of collaboration and giving pupils the appropriate learning opportunities.”
Lesson ideas and plans that came from the project have been collected and are now available for all schools to download at www.fp7-restarts.eu.