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VIEWS & OPINIO N “To Together, r,wemust act


prepare themfor th girls into STEMand


of the future.”


Comment by GEORGE BRASHER, Managing Director – HP UK & Ireland


Technology underpins the UK economy and offers a world of opportunity. But there’s a challenge: experts describe a 40,000-strong shortfall in people with the necessary STEM skills required. At the same time, women comprise only 17%of the UK tech workforce. According to recent resea commissioned by HP, one in f


ive women who rch


chose not to pursue STEMin further


What’s more, 3 education said i


t was because they ‘didn’t know anything about it.’ 2%of women who aren’t in technical roles said it


Together, we must act early to encourage more girls interest in, STEMstart at school and persist into adul This suggests that negative associations with, or a was because they felt underqualified.


prepare them for the jobs of the future.


Before they’re faced with choices about studies or careers, we need girls to see STEMand tech as fun, fulfilling and, most importantly, accessible within their individual capabilities.


Personally, I find it inspiring to see the impact of STEMeverywhere – it’s at the cutting edge, creating the products and services which impact our lives. Not only is the subject matter interesting, but it pays to study STEMtoo. According to London Economics, girls who sit two maths or science subj experience a pay boost of 33%.


bjects at A Level are predicted to


But how do we get girls to engage? The advantage of tech is that it’s ubiquitous. Educators can be change-makers by empowering girls to interact with tech and supporting them in their choice to study STEM.


At HP, we’re committed to inspiring girls. In the UK, we’ve


invested £4.1m in computing resources for the schools most in need; we’ve also granted over £300,000 in STEMfunding in England and Wales in the past year, focusing on supporting schools and staff who are driving STEM-based learning. Beyond the classroom, our ‘World ofWork’ initiative enables girls to experience first-hand what life is like as part of the UK tech workforce. We’re also a signatory of the Tech Talent Charter, and ensure that at least 50%of our annual intern intake are female.


While we believe striving for equality is fundamentally a good thing, there’s also an economic imperative. The UK’s tech sector will never lead the world if we only recruit from half the population – women and girls are as able as men and boys, and we must subvert stereotypes that say otherwise. Striving towards gender parity in the tech workforce will help bridge the country’s skills gap, fuel growth and secure the UK’s place as a global leader in digital innovation. There is no single solution to addressing the shortfall of women


there is a powerful motivation for in tech, but one thing is for sure:


working together – as an industry, everyone to fix this issue. By


can collaborate to make tech more guardians and policymakers – we alongside educators, parents,


appealing and accessible for July/


2019 women from the outset.


y/August n initial lack of


into STEMand thood.


ct early to encouragemore e jobs


Whoever said that schools shouldn’t feel like home?


Comment by DrMargot Sunderland, Director of Education and Training at The Centre for ChildMental Health, and Co-Director of Tra


rauma Info formed Schools UK


Key Stage 1 and Early Years environments are full of colour, texture and sensory stimuli. However, as children ascend through primary and secondary school, there is a notable deficit of colour-rich walls, plants, fabric, sculpture; as d by desks in rows with lighting.


bare walls and harsh they become replace


In short: a move from sensory-rich to sensory-poor.


Policy makers in education seem to believe that older children are less in need of a sensory- rich environment – which directly contradicts


hat exactly do brain scientists mean by ‘enriched environments’ and why are they so vital for learning? Enriched environments (EEs) stimulate the brain in positive ways and bring about improvements in cognitive performance, problem solving, focused attention and stress management. To qualify as ‘enriched’, environments must engage the child/teenager in four ways: cognitively, physically, socially and on a sensory level. The environment must be changed frequently - not the same old sandpit and toys repeatedly.


But w any age. vital ben the lates


Neurotrophins trigger new brain growth, which means new brain cells are produced. This process is called neurogenesis. Neurogenesis takes place in the brain’s frontal lobes, the area of the brain focused on learning, planning, handling stress well and social/e/emotional intelligence. Neurogenesis triggered by enriched environments also occurs in the hippocampus – key for memory and so vital for learning.


Enriched environments can also prevent and/or repair cell damage in the brain caused by the toxic stress of unprocessed painful life experiences. They also result in improved social behaviour and lowered stress chemicals.When at-risk children between the ages of 3-5 were given an enriched environment, they had better psycho-physiological functioning by age 11.


Synapses are the connections between brain cells that allow inter-cell communication. New synaptic connections result in increased brain activity and better cognitive skills. Although synaptogenesis can happen in adulthood, it is particularly important whilst the brain is developing in childhood and adolescence.


When schools ensure that classrooms, halls and corridors are fitted with welcoming lighting, pleasing colours, soft fabrics, plants and sculptures, optimal levels of the anti-anxiety chemical oxytocin are produced which can significantly reduce children’s stress levels. With high levels of school children self-harming and almost 18,000 children under 12 prescribed anti-depressants, we must take a neurochemical approach to ensure schools are soothing environments.


One way is to introduce a system of cognitive tasks with sensory breaks. This could be a designated, separate area in the classroom with a variety of sensory stimuli. Through a card system, pupils who are working well can be given permission for a five minute break to de-stress and emotionally regulate. Such breaks are essential to aid creativity and help pupils re-focus.


To ignore the impact of enriched environments on children’s minds and bodies is tantamount to social, psychological and cognitive neglect. We should strive to provide this for all children, not just those lucky 4- 6 year olds in the Early Years.We must ensure that the 10,000-12,000 hours in a child’s school life taken place in an imaginative physical environment fully enriched throughout every


www .education-toda y


t enriched environment studies (EEs). These studies prove the efits of sensory-rich environments for mind, brain and body at


.co.uk 12 stage of learning.


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