Mayor launches STEM initiatives

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has launched a range of 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 saw 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 5 and year 6 students at primary schools 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 sector2. 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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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