New rooftop science research lab inspires female scientists to aim higher

A-Level students at a Hertfordshire girls’ school will soon have the opportunity to study and conduct research in one of the most unusual science classrooms in the UK.


Watford Grammar School has installed a large SOLARDOME® PRO geodesic dome on the school roof as its new, fully equipped science laboratory. Science writer and TV personality Professor Robert Winston will officially open the dome at a special celebration event on 1st October.


The school had wanted to create an extension to its existing facilities; after exploring the options, they decided a geodesic dome would “bring science alive” and provide an inspirational space to nurture a new generation of female scientists. Funded by The Wolfson Foundation, The Lawton Trust, The Women of Vision Trust and The Watford Grammar Schools Foundation, the dome will be a multi-research facility, used primarily to extend the learning of A-Level Science students.


The school chose UK company Solardome Industries to supply the dome as it was the only dome manufacturer that could design a habitable, temperature-controlled space with added ‘wow’ factor. Fitted with two doorways and an electric source air pump, the dome can be heated and cooled, making it usable all year round.


Mark Gregory, Director and Chartered Surveyor for the school, oversaw the design and build, and complimented the Solardome team for their flexibility through a project that changed specification several times before the project began. He described the school’s dome as “bespoke, and nobody else in the UK provides anything quite like it.”


Its innovative design is set to benefit all of the students at the school – whether they study science or not. As Headmistress Dame Helen Hyde DBE explains:


“Within the science department at Watford Girls we have a wealth of expertise in carrying out and publishing scientific research. This science dome will allow our best science students to apply for a chance to investigate their own ideas, to develop and test hypotheses and to improve their knowledge and experience.


“Although the research carried out inside the science dome will of course have a science focus, we see the existence of the dome as an addition to enrich the whole curriculum. It opens access to the higher levels of academic study and will motivate all our students to think beyond the stipulations of an advanced level syllabus” she added.


1 in 3 UK primary teachers still lack the confidence to effectively teach the new computing curriculum

Farnell element14 survey reveals that despite these worries from teachers, pupils are reacting positively to the new curriculum

September 2015, London, UK:  One year after the implementation of much needed updates to the UK’s computing curriculum, many teachers are still struggling, according to a survey by global electronics distributor Farnell element14. In a poll of more than 400 UK educators and course leaders, almost a third (31%) admitted that they did not feel confident in their ability to teach coding effectively, while nearly half (42%) did not believe that they had received adequate training and support, and 30% did not have access to the right equipment.

Despite these concerns, more than 85% of respondents claimed that their pupils had reacted positively to the new curriculum, although a mere 20% had utilised coding in the teaching of other subjects.

Shane Loynds, Computing Subject Leader at Trawden Forest Primary School in Lancashire commented: “The change of the computing curriculum is a big step forward and will help many children discover their talent in coding early on. However, many teachers feel that they have not received much support in teaching coding.”

Chris Haworth, European Business President of Farnell element14, said that the results reflect a need for further investment in programming skills in schools: “The curriculum changes implemented in 2014 were a huge step in the right direction towards helping young people to develop the real-world programming and computer literacy skills they’ll need to thrive in an increasingly technology-driven job market.

“The overwhelmingly positive feedback from pupils is testament to the fact that the new curriculum is on the right track. Now the key challenge is to ensure that all teachers receive full training and support, empowering them to pass on the highest quality learning experience to their pupils and to foster the next generation of innovators in computing and electronics.

“At Farnell element14 we’re dedicated to supporting engineering in education, working closely with partner organisations such as Leeds Beckett University to provide access to equipment, facilities and learning resources. With demand for talented, experienced programmers far exceeding the current supply, we see championing young engineers and technicians as a responsibility, if the UK is to overcome its critical skills shortage in the technology sector.”

Farnell element14 has a strong pedigree in the education sector having been involved with Raspberry Pi since its launch in 2012. The company is also manufacturing the BBC’s recently unveiled micro:bit computer which is to be given free to every child in year 7 or equivalent across the UK as part of a major initiative to inspire a new generation to get creative with coding, programming and digital technology. Launched today, Farnell element14 is also the exclusive distributor of CodeBug, a new £12 crowdfunded nano-board designed to teach children the fundamentals of programming and electronics in a friendly non-intimidating way. Designed to resemble an insect with six touch sensitive legs and interactive switches as ears, the CodeBug distinguishes itself from other pocket-sized computers through its playful user-interface, developed specifically with younger audiences in mind.

In September 2014, the UK government updated the National Curriculum to replace Information Communication Technology (ICT) with a more up-to-date Computing curriculum. The intention was to help pupils across the educational spectrum to develop fundamental skills in computer literacy, coding and creating their own programs.

The complete results of the Farnell element14 engineering in education survey can be found in this infographic.

Schoolhaus – summer of success

Innovative new school buildings that can generate more power than they use are redefining design, cost and green energy.

Schoolhaus, built and designed by Net Zero Buildings Ltd, is at the cutting edge of modern building solutions for schools. Using the latest in materials and design concepts it has created the UK’s most energy efficient school buildings.

From its first project in 2012, Schoolhaus has gone from strength to strength, and this summer more than eleven projects have been built around the country.

Fast to build, attractive and cost efficient the Schoolhaus buildings provide inspirational learning spaces that are simple to operate, easy to maintain, highly durable and sustainable with the added advantage that they can be completed in just a few weeks.

The result is buildings that not only heat and ventilate themselves but also provide energy to other buildings on the site whilst generating additional power that can then be sold into the national grid.  Even the heat generated by the children using the building can be harnessed to contribute to the energy efficiency. It’s superb insulation also makes it ultra efficient to run with miserly levels of energy consumption.

The speed of manufacturing reduces carbon impact by cutting vehicle movements and improved recycling.

Classrooms are erected and watertight within two days.  All eleven of the summer projects were fitted out and completed within 4 weeks.



Ian Barton, Headteacher at Plumberow Primary Academy, comments:

We are absolutely delighted with our classrooms. Net Zero Building’s attention to detail, work ethic and professionalism was superb throughout the project. The project was completed on time and there were no causes for concern.  We are delighted with the end result.

Caroline Lucas, MP, for the Green Party, who officially opened a new Schoolhaus classroom at Varndean School in Brighton said: “To me, Schoolhaus ticks every possible box: environmental, educational, financial. It is at the forefront of environmental technology in schools.

Neil Gething, Commercial Director at Net Zero Buildings: “We are immensely proud of Schoolhaus and the benefits they deliver on behalf of our clients. This summer our school projects include our first two-storey building and a new library.  Another of our summer projects, Chalgrove Primary School in Barnet, has recently had its Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) completed and is now the most energy efficient building in the UK.

“We have also embarked on our first venture away from schools with a new sports pavilion for the Hertford Cricket and Hockey Club which shows the versatility of our design.”

For more information about Schoolhaus call 0844 318 3000, visit the website at, follow us on twitter @Energy_UKEP, Facebook UKEnergyPartners and Linkedin Net Zero Buildings.

85 per cent of parents in England do want a say in education, PTA UK survey reveals

PTA UK, the largest nationwide membership organisation for parent bodies, has today published the findings of two recent surveys of English parents that reveal 85 per cent of parents want a say in how their child is educated, while only 18 per cent felt that the Government listens to parents on what they want for their children’s education.


PTA UK represents Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) in over 50 per cent of schools in England. Executive director of PTA UK, Emma Williams, says: “What is emphatic is that parents do want to be more involved in education, with 97 per cent of them believing they should be consulted when big changes are proposed to how a school is run. Two thirds of parents currently do not understand the changes the Government wishes to make in terms of policy, how schools are run or the role of the regional schools. This is clearly a concern which needs to be addressed.”


Emma continues: “We are pleased that the Education and Adoption Bill and Education Select Committee is allowing our politicians to consider the role of parents in education matters, both locally and regionally. We have published these findings today to help inform the debate.”


Parents play an influential role in their child’s education. 96 per cent  of those surveyed felt being consulted makes them feel included in their child’s education – indicating the importance of establishing effective links between school and home.


Emma concludes: “We are calling on all those involved in education to work together to find ways of involving parents in a constructive way. PTAs can and do work with schools leaders and governors to help children achieve their potential and improve school life. Early, effective engagement may also benefit everyone by reducing time-consuming conflict down the line.”



Statistics from the PTA UK research, prepared with YouGov include:

85% want a say in how their child is educated

79% want to support their child’s school

67% feel that their child’s school is good at communicating with them

46% feel that their child’s school takes action based on their feedback

33% understand the changes the Government is making to education

18% feel the Government listens to parents on what they want for their children’s education

YouGov survey of 1,000 parents (June 2015)



PTA UK Summer Parent Insight Survey 2015

97% of parents feel they should be consulted when big changes are proposed to how a school is run

96% feel being consulted makes them feel included in their child’s education

15% understand the role of regional schools commissioners

PTA UK Facebook survey of 1,350 parents (September 2015)


PTA UK’s submission to the Education Select Committee can be found here:


Dubai Future Champions Education Week to take place again in October

Following the success of the Dubai Future Champions Education Week project in 2014, 164 Year 8 pupils from Newmarket Academy will participate in the Dubai Future Champions Education Week 2015 from Monday, 5th October culminating in a day’s racing on Friday 9th October, the first day of the inaugural Dubai Future Champions Festival.

The programme aims to engage local children with the unique heritage of the local area in which they live, raise the employment aspirations and expectations of the Academy’s students as well as introduce them to the variety of employment opportunities offered by the racing industry. This initiative has been made possible by the generous support of the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Newmarket Racecourses.

The five-day education programme is structured around the racing industry and throughout the week students will undertake racing related tasks and lessons incorporating topics such as science, geography, history, art, fitness, nutrition, and photography.

Newmarket’s main racing bodies have once again come out in force to support the project, including the National Horseracing Museum, The National Stud, Tattersalls, TOPSPEC and Newmarket Equine Hospital.  This year will also see Rossdales Vets and the British Racing School involved for the first time.

The education programme begins with a trip to the National Horseracing Museum where both the history of horseracing as well as the town of Newmarket is explored through the identification of famous landmarks. Breeding knowledge is then imparted during a guided tour of the National Stud.

Biology and science will be tackled by vets at Newmarket Equine Hospital and Rossdales and the students will also get the opportunity to preview the Race For Excellence exhibition which also returns this year to both days of the Dubai Future Champions Festival, which showcases the shared development story of Dubai and its horseracing heritage.

World-renowned and European leading bloodstock auctioneers Tattersalls host the students on the third day of the programme.  Students will see some of the very best produce of thoroughbred breeding as the Book 1 Yearling Sale will be taking place during their visit.

The week concludes with a trip to the Rowley Mile Racecourse on Friday, 9th October, allowing the students to witness the four-legged subjects of their week’s learning and soak up the atmosphere of a fantastic days racing.

Alongside Dubai Future Champions Education Week, 48 Year 11 Business Studies students will also be taking part in a career ‘Speed Dating’ event which will provide them with the opportunity to learn about the many diverse roles within the industry.
Students will get to spend three minutes talking to people who are employed in a variety of roles throughout racing,  learning about jobs in areas such as veterinary, marketing, legal, hospitality, finance and catering as well as yard and horse care roles.

Amy Starkey, Regional Director – East, Jockey Club Racecourses, said;
“Newmarket Racecourse is committed to providing educational opportunities to local students. This year we have already run the Under Starter’s Orders programme aimed at 9-10 year olds and in which 6 local primary schools took part and delighted to be running the Future Champions Education Week for the second year running.”

“It is our aim to help inspire these students through racing in whatever direction or industry they wish to work in and also further strengthen the ties between Horseracing and the local community.”

Nick Froy, Head of School at Newmarket Academy, said;
“Last year’s programme exceeded all expectation and was thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated by the students and also the teachers. The students not only developed a greater understanding of the racing industry but relished the opportunity to learn curriculum subjects in a fresh and exciting environment.”

We are therefore delighted and grateful of Newmarket Racecourses continued investment and the support of all the stakeholder’s who have committed their time and efforts to ensure this programme is a success.”


A NORTH East organisation, which teaches people to manage stress and anxiety, has warned of the pressures facing Freshers.


As first year students prepare for their first term at university and college, Consett-based social enterprise Living Mindfully, which has led the UK in its work with young people, has called for awareness of the challenges they face.


Living Mindfully is one of the UK’s leading organisations in delivering mindfulness programmes; mindfulness has been recommended by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence), to help treat depression.


Living Mindfully is the only organisation in the country to be commissioned to take GP referrals throughout a whole county and its team works closely with Public Health, County Durham, and Public Health, Darlington, teaching mindfulness in schools and to students at Durham University.


Now, it is calling on higher education institutions to help students start their academic studies in the best way possible, by offering practical tools and advice to facilitate helpful ways of living and studying immediately and for the future.


“We know, from experience that going to college or ‘uni,’ can be great fun, but also can feel quite overwhelming,” said Living Mindfully project leader Jill Cox.


“Students are faced with so many new and challenging situations; being away from home, meeting new people, finding their way around new environments, adapting to new teaching styles and getting to grips with the standards and expectations can all be very stressful.






“Add to that the pressure of managing work schedules, social options and domestic chores – often without having parental shoulders to lean on – and it is no wonder some students find it hard to cope.


“Mindfulness techniques can be a wonderful introduction to students at the start of their college life.  They give them life skills that can support and benefit them not only through their studies but also into their working and social lives beyond.”


Mindfulness encourages people to focus their attention on the present moment, to gain insight into the workings of their minds and to find space and kindness to be able to respond in a helpful and considered manner rather than to dwell on the past or worry about the future.


By helping people to be fully present in the moment, mindfulness has been shown to aid concentration, help them prioritise their workloads and find a correct balance between work and play.


“Developing tools to help take personal control and manage one’s life can build self-confidence. Nurturing self-compassion and to believe in oneself, socially and academically, can alleviate enormous amounts of pressure,” said Jill.


“While universities and colleges understandably put an emphasis on academic achievement, many are now seeing the importance of offering guidance in social and emotional wellbeing – and this is crucial.”


For more information about Living Mindfully, its courses and referral requirements, call 01207 693909 or visit its website at


Fujitsu launches 1st Innovation Hub in Scotland in partnership with Borders College

LONDON, September 29th 2015 – Fujitsu today launched its 7th Innovation Hub, as Borders College Scotland becomes the latest member of the Fujitsu-Intel Ambassador Programme.


Selected as an education Ambassador due to its objective to raise the aspirations of its students through the use of technology, the Borders College’s Innovation Hub launch marks the first of its kind in Scotland.


The initiative aims to enhance teaching and unleash students’ potential by putting technology at the heart of education. It is aligned with the objectives of the Education Technology Action Group (ETAG), whose mission is to promote the use of digital technology across schools, further education, higher education and Special Education Needs (SEN) sectors.


Borders College is situated within the Scottish Borders and enrols 5500 students every year. Of the utmost importance to the college is offering their students an alternative future career path to the traditional industries and roles based within Galashiels and its surrounding area.


“This is at the root of why we wanted this college and its team to become part of the Ambassador Programme – their desire to support in shaping future generations of students and inspiring them to take-up technology subjects,” said Ash Merchant, Head of Business Development for Education at Fujitsu.


“Technology no longer plays just a supporting role in our lives. It is prevalent at home and at work and it demands a new skillset if the next generation are to use it to develop their capabilities, ideas and successes. We are very proud to partner with Borders College to ensure their students and the surrounding community can realise potential technology can provide.”


Fujitsu have supplied 10 devices to the school from the STYLISTIC Tablets, LIFEBOOK Notebooks and ESPRIMO Desktop PC ranges. 150 students will have access to the technology initially, but the hub will soon be opened to the local community for public use.


Suzanne Scott, Technology Enhanced Learning Manager at Borders College, commented on the partnership: “We are delighted to have been chosen as the first Fujitsu Innovation Hub in Scotland and this is testament to the commitment of Borders College to create a more inspiring campus environment for our students.


“With the increasing demand for digitally savvy students, the provision of the Fujitsu devices and support for future projects in this area secures a continuation of the good work the College has done to date. Most importantly it allows the College to create a more realistic work environment for our students with greater opportunities and insight into the world of work, such as the one offered by global organisations such as Fujitsu, not to mention an inspirational environment for the local community to use”.


As part of the Ambassador Programme, Fujitsu has partnered with educational institutions across the UK, including UTC Reading, NAS Thames Valley School and City College Coventry. All ambassadors have been selected based on their recognition of technology as an enabler to enhance the learning experience and to develop digital skills for students and teachers.


Borders College also becomes an official Tablet Academy Training Centre – a Fujitsu partner who supports in training the teaching teams in the newly acquired technologies. This is at the heart of this entire Ambassador Programme – not just providing the latest, high quality technology, but supporting how that technology is put to work within the education environment, ensuring it is used effectively.


Pam Currie, CEO, Tablet Academy, Scotland commented: “Tablet Academy Scotland is delighted to be partnering with Borders College and Fujitsu to ensure that the Fujitsu Innovation Hub delivers impact for college staff, students and the wider community. As an official Tablet Academy Scotland Training Centre, the college and its Innovation Hub will become a focal point for the delivery of exciting digital workshops and courses. Our courses and workshops will showcase the technology available and support the college and the wider community to develop digital skills and collaborative working practices that make the most of the technology on offer.”





– Discovery Education selected as preferred supplier to deliver digital content to Independent Schools Association members to improve achievement, and prepare students for the challenges of tomorrow. –


London, UK (28 September 2015) – Discovery Education, the leading provider of digital content for school classrooms, announced its partnership with Independent Schools Association (ISA), a progressive organization of UK independent schools, becoming one of their official Gold Preferred Suppliers for more than 360 schools across the UK. Discovery Education will build upon ISA’s close school partnerships to provide engaging digital content for primary and secondary age pupils, along with professional development and networking opportunities to support teachers as they prepare today’s students to meet tomorrow’s challenges.


“We’re proud to be awarded the Gold Preferred Supplier status and to be working with the fantastic members of ISA. We hope that by offering high-quality content with ready-to-implement digital teaching strategies, alongside our unique virtual experiences and exciting competitions, we will support teaching staff and students to embrace technology and become digital leaders,” explained Susanne Thompson, Vice President of Discovery Education.


As part of this new relationship, Discovery Education will continue its close relationship with Claires Court School, Maidenhead, Berkshire, an ISA member. In the course of its partnership with Claires Court, Discovery Education has provided dynamic digital content through its Discovery Education Secondary service plus professional development for teachers and student digital leaders. One particular opportunity awarded a Claires Court School teacher the opportunity to travel to America for a week of professional development at the Discovery Education Summer Institute.


“It was inspiring to be surrounded by some of the most talented and passionate educators in the world. The culture of the Discovery Education Summer Institute is one of complete support and collaboration. We all learned new ways of working which we can immediately deploy into our classrooms and I’ve expanded my professional network,” expressed participant, André Boulton, Design & Technology Teacher and Head of ICT at Claires Court School.


Discovery Education believes in facilitating collaboration between innovative schools that are passionate about using technology to enhance learning experiences. Therefore, ISA members are supported by the Discovery Education Community. As part of the Community, teachers have the opportunity to connect with other like-minded professionals to share novel and dynamic techniques with one another, through in-person conferences, virtual events, and social media to foster valuable collaboration, networking, and inspiration.


“Our goal at ISA was to find a solution designed for all ages, across the core subject areas to help inspire our members to use digital media to engage students. We’re thrilled that Discovery Education offers high quality digital resource services, plus professional development and networking opportunities, so our schools can continue to enhance the learning experience,” expressed Neil Roskilly, Chief Executive Officer, ISA


For more information about Discovery Education’s services and the global Community, visit

Clearwater International advises on €26m sale of Synarbor to Sovereign Capital

Synarbor plc (Synarbor), a market leading education recruitment business, has been sold to Sovereign Capital Partners LLP. Clearwater International advised the company on the sale.

Synarbor, head-quartered in Sheffield, has over 20 years’ experience in placing staff in the state, independent and international education sectors. The business predominantly supplies temporary teachers, teaching assistants and support staff to its clients, which comprise primary and secondary schools (including academies), and also special educational needs schools and nurseries. The business is differentiated in the market by its unique managed service, schools collaborative approach, including added value offerings ranging from consultancy through to fully managed turnaround services. The business engages with approximately 2,000 clients.

Sovereign Capital’s directors consider that Synarbor has a number of attractive characteristics including its strength of operational brands, branch network and geographical spread. With expectations to invest in Synarbor through additional consultants and resources in order to deliver continued growth, the business can look forward to an exciting period of its history going forward under Sovereign’s ownership.

Clearwater International partner Marcus Archer and associate director Andy Dyer advised Synarbor on the sale. This is the sixth deal that Clearwater’s Business Services team has completed in the education sector, having also advised on the sales of Teaching Personnel (to RJD Partners and then Graphite Capital), ITN Mark, Vision for Education and Sugarman Group.

Dennis Hall, Independent Non-Executive Director of Synarbor plc, said:

“Clearwater International did a great job in supporting us through the sale process. They brought their real depth of education recruitment sector knowledge to bear on the transaction, leaving no stone unturned in finding the right buyer to take the business forward on the next stage of its development. Further, the team’s dedication to getting the deal done was unstinting and their negotiation skills came to the fore in delivering a fair deal for the shareholders. I would have no hesitation in recommending Marcus and the team to any businesses looking to transact in this sector.”

Marcus Archer, Head of Business Services, Clearwater International commented:

 “The sale to Sovereign Capital Partners provides an exit at a fair valuation for a long tail of shareholders, many of whom have held the stock since it de-listed from AIM in 2008. The current board and management team, supported by significant shareholders, Baird Capital Partners and Risk Capital Partners, have done a fantastic job in turning around the business and turning Synarbor into one of the pre-eminent players in the UK education recruitment market. In Sovereign they have found an investor with the appetite to invest in and grow the business on the next phase of its journey. It has been a pleasure working with the Board to realise an exit for the shareholders and we wish the business, its shareholders and employees well on the start of their new journey.”



− Discovery Education, as part of its core mission to empower teachers and engage pupils with high-quality, engaging digital content, adds over seventy videos and teaching resources for English set texts to prepare students and teachers for the GCSEs, and accommodate school partners’ needs. −



UNITED KINGDOM (22 September 2015) – Discovery Education announced the addition of over 70 videos for set texts, novels set by an exam board, which students are asked to study for their English Literature GCSEs. These new learning tools were developed in response to the latest round of exam updates in September.


“We are continuously updating our services, because we want to be sure our material is up-to-date with the latest curriculum so we can support teachers in delivering great teaching and learning. Discovery Education released the new set texts to address the demand by English teachers and students for 2015 GCSE content and to expand our offering across a range of specs for English,” explains Anna Vaughan, Curriculum Strategy and Development Manager at Discovery Education.


The videos cover the various areas a student must explore with the novel: language, theme, characters, context, etc. This includes looking at the contextual influences of a novel, for example exploring the real 19th century science behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, investigating how language is manipulated in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, or how Jane Austen represents the privilege of Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Alongside lesson plans, these resources will allow students and teachers to prepare with assurance for their English Literature exams.


These engaging and helpful videos, which are ideal as lesson starters or as revision materials, were created specifically for all current GCSEs. While teachers will also find some of the set texts resources suitable for Key Stage 3 study.


All of these resources are available within the schools’ Discovery Education Secondary subscription.


Discovery Education Secondary is a new digital service, offering video-rich, cross-curricular, dynamic content, designed to empower teachers and inspire students to reach their full potential. The programme provides thousands of digital resources to support the teaching of the curriculum at Key Stages 3 and 4.


For more information about Discovery Education Secondary and the new set texts resources, please visit