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Blaenau Gwent schools get £66,000 STEM grants

Blaenau Gwent

Secondary Schools in Blaenau Gwent have received grant funding of over £66,000 from the Welsh Government’s Tech Valleys programme to purchase new equipment to enhance the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths.

Twenty schools across Blaenau Gwent and three across Merthyr successfully bid for Welsh Government funding of up to £3,000.

The successful applications were awarded funding for a range of equipment from autoclaves and Raspberry Pi computers to on-line post-mortem sessions and chocolate 3-D printers all designed to help bring authentic work experiences into the classroom. The applications were judged by a panel which included representatives from the Education Advisory Service (EAS), Industry Wales, the Tech Valleys STEM Facilitation Co-ordinator and Welsh Government.

These grants to schools are part of the much wider Tech Valleys STEM Facilitation activity, a commitment of £570,000 over four years by the Welsh Government. The aim of the project is to increase the uptake of STEM GCSEs at Key Stage 3 and maintain that interest at Key Stage 4.

Ultimately the ambition is to encourage the study of STEM subjects post-16, which then lead to highly skilled, highly paid STEM careers. The equipment that the schools will now buy will help make science and maths more relatable by demonstrating how they can be applied to the world of work. The STEM Facilitation work helps bring together schools and businesses in order to raise aspiration and prepare pupils for their journey into the world of work which is complementary to Curriculum for Wales.

A spokesperson for the judges said:
‘All the applications were really strong and demonstrated a clear understanding of the links between GCSE subjects and industry”. One example is Brynmawr Foundation School who proposed purchasing iPads to design a safe landing device for an egg! The school linked this project to the work of one of Wales’ most strategically significant companies, Safran Seats in Cwmbran. They felt the equipment would help learners understand forces, speed and motion in preparation for Physics and Engineering GCSEs. There were also applications which linked the new equipment to the food sector. Tredegar Comprehensive School proposed incorporating a “Heston Blumenthal approach to the science of cooking” in order to promote chemical, lab and food tech analysis methods.’

The applications also made links with other Tech Valleys activities such as the Welsh Valleys Engineering Project, which is run by the Royal Academy for Engineering and funded by the Panasonic Trust and the Tech Valleys programme. Last year, this project worked with 54 schools and 15 businesses to develop and deliver term-long STEM challenges in the classroom in line with the curriculum and employer needs.

Blaenau Gwent Council’s Cabinet Member for People & Education, Cllr Sue Edmunds says:
‘This is great news and I welcome this extra funding for our schools to help learners develop their science and technology skills. It is essential we raise the aspirations of our learners to embrace ever-evolving technologies so they gain access to the high skilled jobs of the future.’

Welsh Government Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said:
“I’m delighted to see schools in Blaenau Gwent get the support they need to promote STEM subjects to Key Stages 3 and 4.
“Through the Welsh Government’s Tech Valleys Programme, we’re partnering with industry and bringing authentic work experiences into the classroom and training the next generation to work in the net zero jobs of the future, for a stronger, fairer and greener Wales.”