The Future Brunels Programme capitalises on the youthful enthusiasm of 11 year olds for science and engineering, by providing them with a five year, linear programme of inspiring enrichment activities to help them focus on further studies in the nationally important STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

The programme supports the ss Great Britain Trust’s charitable goal to promote the study of maritime and industrial engineering and science, including the life of and works of IK Brunel and their significance in the modern world. With a continuing national shortage of qualified scientists the programme aims to capitalise on the enthusiasm for science that young children experience in primary school and to maintain and develop these skills and interests in science, engineering and the world around them, inspiring and supporting them to become ‘Brunels’ of the future.

Working closely with four partner schools, the team ensures that the programme supports the Future Brunel’s development in school, as well as outside the classroom during the programme. Each year the Trust runs a two-stage selection process to reach the final selection of three children from each of the four schools. Selection is based on aptitude, potential and enthusiasm rather than existing attainment. It also seeks out talented young people that are not necessarily already obviously geared up to do science at A-Level and beyond.

Each of these Future Brunels then spends 6 days each academic year (from years 7 to 11) taking part in exclusive activity days designed to maintain interest and enthusiasm and to give a sense of the options open to them through further education, higher education and beyond.

Throughout the programme, the Future Brunels become part of the ss Great Britain community, exploring the work of IK Brunel, developing learning skills and getting to know children from other schools with different backgrounds who they might not otherwise meet. The programme is evaluated to ensure that the outcomes and impact of this novel education programme are understood and to develop knowledge and understanding that can be applied elsewhere.

Results to date have shown that Future Brunels are choosing STEM subjects at GCSE as a direct result of the programme; are deciding to stay at school to take ‘A’ levels rather than going straight into an apprenticeship; and considering options to study STEM subjects at university rather than arts/humanities.

This pioneering approach in identifying ‘Future Brunels’ in Year 7 and providing them with unparalleled exposure to the variety of real-world science and engineering opportunities available has found much support with the industry, the Trust’s partner schools and engineering institutions and charities.

As well as benefiting the participating children, the ss Great Britain Trust has benefited from the project in a number of ways. The project has also given the Trust a high profile for innovative education work on which it can build.

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