Excellence in STEM - Finalist in Best Schools Award

Mr Budden, Director of STEM, Head of Mathematics & Assistant Head

2nd July 2024

At Solefield, we set up our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) program in September 2021. This involved making it part of our timetabled curriculum and as part of our clubs’ provision in order to:

  • raise achievement in STEM subjects;
  • develop awareness and engagement in STEM-based careers;
  • promote key skills of collaboration, communication and critical thinking;
  • provide learning experiences for our kinaesthetic learners;
  • provide opportunities for all pupils a stage on which to shine; and,
  • satisfy the demand and interests of our pupils.

Over the course of three years, our aim was to:

  • roll out a STEM curriculum to the entire school, embedding it into the curriculum for all year groups from Little Acorns (Nursery) up to Year 8;
  • provide extra-curricular opportunities for pupils to enjoy a variety of clubs;
  • include a Scholarship Pathway Program for Year 7 and Year 8 to study the subject at a deeper and more involved level; and,
  • host a STEM Week each year to include activities, experiences, talks, workshops and a STEM Fair. 

We are now in our third year of a rolling program to include STEM lessons as part of the curriculum for all the children at Solefield.

Our First Year

We started with each year group from Year 5 to Year 8 having an hour of STEM included within their weekly timetable. A project-based learning approach was used, where each year group looked at:

  • Practical Action projects (solving a real-world problem, often with an environmental focus);
  • utilising information technology (examples include creating stop motion videos and programming Lego robots, both WeDo and Spike Prime, and using online CAD (Computer Aided Design) tools to design and 3D print school House mascots);
  • creating, designing and building through design technology (studying and building bridges, designing and constructing roller-coaster prototypes); and
  • choosing Crest Award projects (examples include pupils in Year 8 researching, making, testing and using their own toothpaste!). 

Pupils use the new iPads to code their Lego WeDo robots.

Brave Year 8s testing out their own toothpaste (safety googles mandatory!)


We also gave all pupils the opportunity to take part in a STEM Club during the year. These included not only a STEM club itself, but also Computing, Programming, Engineering and multiple Lego clubs. 

STEM – Scholarship Pathway

We introduced STEM as an option for our Senior pupils to choose on their Tuesday afternoon Scholarship Pathway Program. This is an afternoon during which pupils can select a subject they are passionate about and would like to study in greater depth. The students worked hard researching, designing and then building a scale model of an entertainment cabinet; devising a gaming controller, before learning about digital electronics and programmable gates for circuitry. 

A STEM Scholar carefully constructs his half-scale TV entertainment cabinet.

Whole School STEM Week at Solefield

Finally, we initiated a STEM Week for the whole school. Our first topic was Space and during the week we enjoyed talks and workshops from guest speakers, built Mars landers, created artistic constellations, and went on trips to study fixing planes, introducing engineering and explore solar circuits. Many of these activities were run by the Year 8 prefects who went into the younger classes and delivered the session. The week culminated with a STEM Fair. The Year 7 and Year 8 pupils had researched an area of their choice on the topic of Space and created a presentation for their stall. Most groups also included an interactive activity for visitors to enjoy and to entice greater traffic to their station. The week also included a variety of competitions to enter and resulted in some fascinating TED Talks recorded by the Senior pupils. 

Our Second Year

In Year Two, the curriculum provision was further extended to include Years 3 and 4. Lessons reflected those taught in the older age groups with projects focusing on Practical Action Topics, International Space Station (ISS) Education as well as shorter projects using the Crest Superstar award scheme, a wonderful award scheme introducing children to problem-solving in STEM. 

As this was the year Solefield celebrated our 75th anniversary, the theme of STEM Week was ‘Flight’ in honour of a former longstanding Head, who was a Spitfire pilot. Artist Darcy Turner visited at the beginning of the academic year as we built a half-scale model Spitfire out of newspaper, paste and cable ties. Over two days, the whole school took part in timetabled sessions to create the ‘sticks’ required for the structure before assembling them to make the plane. Older students supported younger ones when needed and by the end of the two days we made two planes! One now hangs, in the school library while the second plane was donated and is displayed in our local Sevenoaks library.

Every student at the school took part in sessions to construct two scale model Spitfires.

A finished Spitfire, ready for hanging in the Library.

The half-scale Spitfire model hanging in Solefield School library, made by all pupils during a two-day workshop with artist Darcy Turner.

Proud Year 7s, having donated our second Spitfire to the local library.

With the theme of Flight, STEM Week included trips to Biggin Hill airport where senior pupils enjoyed sitting in a private aircraft and helicopter, were taken through a private terminal with their faces printed on their hot chocolates and also given a guided tour of the Heritage Hangar – a very special experience.

Our Year 8s enjoyed the luxury experience of the private Jetex terminal at Biggin Hill airport.

During the rest of the week, students flew drones, enjoyed flying in a simulator, took part in a whole school paper aeroplane competition, took part in flight workshops and enjoyed talks from visiting pilots as well as visiting the school’s Flight Club darts event. Once again, the STEM Fair was run by the Year 7 and 8 pupils who created their stalls on topics ranging from wingsuits to tracking the flight from a (homemade) marshmallow gun to the memorable ‘Eagle vs Chicken’ stall.

Budding pilots have a go at taking off and landing, using VR headsets and a flight simulator.

A Year 2 pupil uses a VR headset to go on a drone ride, supported by one of our Year 8s.

Our Third Year

This year, our third year, sees STEM rolled out for the entire school. Pre-Prep includes STEM in a cross-curricular manner, particularly to complement many of their Humanities topics, whilst still enjoying the opportunity to attend STEM Club. All year groups from Year 3 upwards now have their own STEM curriculum, working through Crest Award projects and tackling larger challenges individually or as part of a pair or small group. We have also been accredited as an ‘NRich Problem Solving School’.

Again, the academic year got off to an engaging and enjoyable start with the visit of the Happy Puzzle Company. Every year group had a session in the hall, testing themselves and their peers when solving a range of interesting problems, encouraging our pupils to utilise their skills of collaboration, communication and critical thinking.

Our youngest pupils, the Little Acorns Pre-School (age 3-4) are engaged in our whole school STEM Puzzle Day workshop.

STEM Scholarship

STEM Scholarship is very popular, and the pupils enjoyed a careers ‘Thinking Allowed’ talk from an expert in the AI industry. During this year’s STEM Week on ‘Time’, the Year 8 students ran sessions across the whole school, receiving unanimously positive feedback. One of the competitions, a Rubik’s Cube Solving Challenge, resulted in two finalists competing head-to-head during Solefield’s Got Talent in a dramatic denouement. And, once again, the STEM Fair run by the senior pupils was informative, inspiring and enjoyable for the rest of the school. Activities this year included experiencing record lap times using VR headsets, a demonstration of a working potato clock and an exploration as to whether time travel is possible!

Year 7 and Year 8 are introduced to AI and the exciting future world of work.

With the help of Year 8 pupils, Reception make and decorate sand timers.

The Potato Clock stall at our ‘Time’ themed STEM Fair looks to attract visitors with an eye-catching display and working demonstration.

Investment and Resources

To run the curriculum effectively, seven STEM-dedicated iPads were purchased as well as 6 boxes of LEGO Spike Prime. In conjunction with the Computing department, a class set of VR headsets were also bought and this year we added a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine to be shared between departments. Additionally, a wide range of woodworking tools were acquired for use in a wide variety of projects. After the Puzzle Day, we purchase a range of practical problem solving activities that the pupils have been enjoying in lessons and in clubs. We are currently in the process of designing, resourcing and fitting a new STEM room to include all the necessary equipment and facilities required to deliver the broad curriculum offering in this subject.


From the teachers’ perspective, adding STEM to the curriculum and weaving it into the extra-curricular program has had a beneficial impact on the pupils at Solefield. Teachers describe the students as being “engaged” and “motivated” in their STEM lessons, often taking ownership of their learning and conducting additional research into a topic of their choice. The impact is also seen beyond STEM lessons themselves, with the collaborative focus placed in STEM lessons also becoming evident in other lessons such as PE and the Humanities. Form teachers also report students asking to build and create using Lego during their Form Times and Well-being lessons, this has resulted in greater interactions between the students and development of their team-working skills.

STEM lessons score highly for the pupils when considering their favourite subject due to the chance to ‘design and make’ that many students enjoy, already targeting this as a future career. STEM Clubs are popular, with many of them oversubscribed and in student surveys, pupils have requested more STEM curriculum time as well as even more clubs provision for robotics, Lego and AI. The STEM Scholarship Pathway option is also a popular choice amongst the Year 7 and Year 8 pupils. The first year it was introduced, half of the students chose to take it.