School Robot Competition: EPSRC UK-RAS Network & Twinkl launch AR app to design your own robot

National competition challenges schoolchildren to design a future Mars robot; winners will be announced at the International Robotics Showcase on 27th June

London, UK, Wednesday 27th March 2019— A robotic design competition aimed at helping schoolchildren up and down the country to hone their scientific thinking and develop their talent in engineering has been launched across the UK today. The competition is based on an augmented reality (AR) online game platform developed in exclusive partnership by educational publishers Twinkl and the EPSRC UK Robotics & Autonomous Systems Network (UK-RAS Network). The app and information packs can be downloaded from today from the School Robot Competition website: Competition entries close on 14th June 2019.

The School Robot Competition invites children aged between 8 and 14 (upper KS2-KS3) to design a robot that can move across Mars and complete various tasks and challenges on the planet’s unique surface. Through building robots, schoolchildren will acquire robotic technology fundamentals and research skills, and be given the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and learn the joy of engineering.

The competition is one of a series of activities taking place as part of UK Robotics Week, organised annually in the last week of June (24th – 27th June 2019) by the EPSRC UK-RAS Network. Competition winners will be announced at the International Robotics Showcase – the highlight event of UK Robotics Week – to be held at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Thursday 27th June 2019. The competition winners will receive a range of unique prizes, from an all-expense paid trip to London to the latest iPad Pro/Apple Pencil, or the MiRo-E Robot for team entries. MiRo-E is an advanced AI robot adapted for education with robust hardware and a specialised programming interface to facilitate students coding.

The School Robot Competition AR platform – which is also available as an app from the Apple App Store and Google Play – offers a range of components to build, program and test robot designs, spanning:

– ‘build mode’ – connecting sensors and motors to a base block

– ‘program mode’ – inputting coding to determine how the robot moves

– ‘play mode’ – testing the robot’s ability to complete various challenges on Mars

Chief Technology Officer for Twinkl Pete Casson said: “Twinkl was set the challenge by the EPSRC UK-RAS Network of inspiring children to become science and technology leaders – a challenge that we’re already well-versed in. Our solution was to use our world-first AR technology to bring coding and robotics to schoolchildren in a way that puts collaboration and communication first. Our latest app achieves these goals on an inclusive platform that is accessible to all learners – building confidence in those looking to learn whilst challenging children with skills to showcase.”

Commenting on the School Robot Competition and app launch, Professor Guang-Zhong Yang PhD, FREng, Chair of the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, added: “This partnership between Twinkl and the EPSRC UK-RAS Network has delivered a fantastic AR platform that will enable schoolchildren to develop important STEM capabilities in programming, debugging, engineering and the fundamentals of robotics development. However, this competition aims to do more than develop STEM skills – it aims to develop confidence, communication, cooperation and leaderships skills, and to inspire schoolchildren as science and technology leaders as well as innovators of the future.”

Falling levels of teacher pay must be addressed urgently to lessen staffing crisis

Following recent figures showing that a huge 36,000 teachers stepped down from the profession last year, Baljinder Kuller, managing director of The Supply Register, has urged that better pay for workers is prioritised to prevent the current crisis worsening.
Teachers are leaving in higher numbers than ever, with the government’s failure to reach its own targets on recruitment for the last five years leading to a shortfall of 30,000 teachers. At the same time, pupil numbers are set to rise by 19% over the next decade.
Another trend occurring parallel to this is continuously falling levels of teacher pay, which has dropped by more than £4,000 a year since 2010 in real terms. However, the government is still stalling on a solution, with Damian Hinds, the education secretary, warning that only a 2% increase can be expected for the next academic year.
Commenting on the current situation, Baljinder Kuller, managing director of The Supply Register, has urged school leaders to focus on staff pay to boost retention levels:
“While the latest figures showing record numbers of teachers leaving the profession do not make for pleasant reading, sadly, they don’t come as a surprise. Retention levels in schools have been getting worse for a long time now, and it’s not farfetched to say that we’re in the midst of a full blown crisis. Teacher pay has played a large role in this. When I started recruiting for local authorities back in the early 2000’s, graduate pay packages were incredibly attractive – now, they are anything but.”
“Clearly, the combination of a stressful environment, heavy workload, and stagnant remuneration is driving staff away, leading to a systematic erosion of recognition for the role that teachers play in our society. To reverse this, it’s urgent that authorities act now. For school leaders themselves, this may seem like an impossible task, but with the right workforce management procedures in place, and by re-evaluating the staffing agencies that they are using, schools will be able to manage resources in a way that will ensure their workers get a fairer deal –particularly where supply teachers are concerned.’’
“While recent plans, such as an offer of improved pay to workers across Scotland are promising, it is clear that change must come from the top. Decision makers need to take the initiative and see whether their existing staffing strategies are actually preventing current teachers from getting the pay they deserve.”

Pros in prose: Premier League Writing Stars poetry competition winners announced

More than 25,000 primary school children across England and Wales have penned a poem for the second annual Premier League Writing Stars poetry competition. Themed on diversity, the competition encouraged five to 11-year-olds to explore what makes us ‘Beautifully different, Wonderfully the Same’ using a poem created especially for Writing Stars by poet Joseph Coelho.

Premier League Writing Stars Competition winner prize – presentation made by Poet and playwright Joseph Coelho to pupils from year 2 of St Finbar’s Catholic Primary School, South Hill Road, Liverpool, L8 9RY on the 13th March 2019

‘Being Different’ written by a group of Year One pupils from St. Finbar’s Catholic Primary School in Liverpool and ‘An Ordinary Girl from Birmingham’ by Maariya, aged nine, of Heathfield Primary School in Birmingham were selected as the national winners for Key Stage 1 (5-7 years) and Key Stage 2 (7-11 years) respectively.

Judging was completed by a stellar panel, which included Waterstones Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, former Premier League footballer Rio Ferdinand, singer-songwriter Olly Murs and poet Joseph Coelho. All poems were judged on a range of criteria including creativity, tone and originality.

Rio Ferdinand said:

“We were sitting there saying, ‘Are these kids really this age, writing this?’ Some of the vocabulary, the language, the ideas and the way the poems took shape… it seemed more like university students!

“Congratulations to all the kids who took part because it has been a really difficult task going through all the entries and finding the winner. We could have picked so many.”

The competition was supported by the National Literacy Trust and is part of the Premier League Primary Stars education programme, which uses the appeal of the Premier League and professional football clubs to inspire children to learn, be active and develop important life skills. Since its launch in 2017, Primary Stars has engaged more than 16,000 primary schools and 37,000 teachers across England and Wales.

As well as deciding the two national winners, this year’s judging panel also selected the 10 regional winners across the two Key Stages.

Singer-songwriter Olly Murs said:

“I was so impressed by the Premier League Writing Stars entries. It’s the first time I’ve been involved so I didn’t really know what to expect but wow… they exceeded my expectations.

“The quality of the writing is amazing. It’s incredible to see children using poetry and their imagination to put their feelings about diversity on paper.”

The national winning poets have already received a visit from the Premier League Trophy and a poetry workshop from competition judge Joseph Coelho. Illustrator David Mackintosh has created bespoke pictures that will feature alongside their winners’ poems in a limited-edition Writing Stars book which will be published and distributed to schools later this year. The book will also feature poems from celebrity friends of Premier League Writing Stars and other children who performed commendably in the competition. The national winners’ poems will then be used in an advertising campaign which will be visible across England and Wales in May.

Joseph Coelho said:

“The Key Stage 1 winning poem, ‘Being Different’, stood out because it had a great structure. You have these regular rhyming couplets and a wonderful message which seems to refer to the poets’ own experiences of possibly struggling with but then celebrating diversity.

“Maariya’s poem, ‘An Ordinary Girl from Birmingham’ which is the Key Stage 2 winner, is wonderful. It has a really strong voice. It talks about her parents being from the North or South and how that doesn’t matter because together they make her world, which is such a beautiful sentiment.”

Waterstones Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, said:

“I think poetry is one of the most powerful ways to communicate and express how you’re feeling inside. By having the football community value the importance of reading and writing, it speaks to children who may not have written a poem before.”

Visit to find out how your school can be involved with Premier League Primary Stars

BNF Healthy Eating Week 2019 re-awakens with new challenge

The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has launched registration for its seventh annual BNF Healthy Eating Week, taking place 10 – 14 June 2019. BNF Healthy Eating Week comprises five health challenges, which organisations, schools and nurseries are encouraged to complete: Have breakfast, Have 5 A DAY, Drink plenty, Get active, and – new for 2019 – Sleep well.
BNF Healthy Eating Week aims to increase knowledge about healthy eating and wellbeing, physical activity, food provenance and cooking, by providing schools and workplaces with activities and informative resources to support the five daily challenges.
This year’s latest focus is on sleep, and resources will highlight that getting enough good quality sleep is a key element of healthy lifestyles. Where a poor night’s sleep can make you feel grumpy and irritable, regular lack of sleep can have a negative impact on our dietary choices including higher intakes of calories and fat. The BNF’s recent Task Force report, released in February 2019, highlighted that both lack of sleep, and poor quality and interrupted sleep, may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. Sleep is also involved in maintaining skills such as communicating well, memory and creative thinking.
Roy Ballam, Managing Director and Head of Education at the BNF said: “BNF Healthy Eating Week provides the perfect opportunity for schools, universities and businesses to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and truly focus on their health and wellbeing. Each year we introduce a new challenge, and with emerging research linking poor sleep quality to less healthy food choices and increased risk of obesity, we felt it was important to address this issue. BNF Healthy Eating Week registrants will receive a variety of resources containing information on our selected health and wellbeing themes, as well as some fun, educational activities to engage employees and students throughout the Week.”
BNF Healthy Eating Week is a valuable education initiative for teachers and young people – 4,600 schools and nurseries registered for last year’s event and more interest than ever was received from adults keen to be involved. Over 1,400 workplaces and universities participated, demonstrating the Week’s importance for informing adults about health and wellbeing too.
Ballam continued: “Promoting health is not only beneficial to employees, but to employers too – more and more workplaces are engaging with this concept every year. Approximately 131 million working days are lost to sickness absence, with 200,000 attributed to insufficient sleep in the UK each year. We hope that BNF Healthy Eating Week will help draw attention to some of these everyday health challenges and, in turn, help us along the path to resolving them too.”
For more information about BNF Healthy Eating Week 2019 and to register your nursery, school, college, university or workplace, please visit: or

New partnership set to deliver essential business skills to sports and fitness students

fibodo, the award-winning booking management platform, has announced a partnership with sport education specialist, AoC Sport, to provide up to 239 colleges in England with free access to a business focused e-learning course.
The CIMSPA-accredited course, ‘Grow Your Business’ – created by fibodo – aims to teach and inspire students on best business practice, as well as how to operate effectively online and develop successful careers in the fitness sector.
The course is designed for integration within colleges’ existing programmes and includes useful, practical business advice on topics such as growing a client base and managing admin – whilst equipping them with the technology and software skills required for success in today’s digital society. This aims to upskill young talent and give the next generation of sports and fitness entrepreneurs an edge over their competition.
‘Grow your Business’ is worth three CPD points, and is available to students who study up to a Level 4 qualification and to both private and public colleges.

There are currently 76,000 students studying sports coaching or fitness courses in England alone, and this is growing at a considerable rate. Although colleges have always offered in-depth teaching with regards to technical skills, there has traditionally been little – if any – focus on the commercial and digital practicalities of running a fitness business in the real world.

Marcus Kingwell, managing director at AoC Sport, commented: “We have been working with fibodo for some time in the WorldSkills UK Fitness Trainer Competition and have been impressed with their offer. We are now introducing the course to all our member colleges as part of our vision to boost the employability of students. It will help to address the lack of business skills of newly-qualified personal trainers, as identified in Future Fit Training’s Raising the Bar report last year.”

Megan Sowney, director at fibodo, added: “We’re passionate about empowering sports and activity professionals at grassroots level, so this partnership is a great fit. Tutors and lecturers now have a vital resource to inspire more students to gain the knowledge and skills that are essential to achieving successful businesses within the sector.”
To see how fibodo helps students and college leavers build their businesses online, take a look at Louise Wilson. Louise is based in Cornwall and recently won the WorldSkills UK Fitness Trainer Competition, having changed career and moved from a city job in London.

Using ICT to reduce school operating costs

Jayne Davies, Services Director, RM Education

Finding ways to cut costs without negatively impacting teaching is an issue pertinent to all education providers across the UK. In addition, schools have an ambition to integrate ICT throughout learning, but using ICT to its best effect in the classroom is not without challenge. Schools can invest in the latest ICT kit (for example iPads and Virtual Reality) but without the right support to embed these into the curriculum, the equipment and investment is likely to be underutilised.

Putting the right technology in place to support learning, rather than making learning work around technology, will enable schools to achieve a higher level of ICT delivery and support while keeping costs down.

Moving to the cloud
By moving to the cloud and being ‘server-free’ schools can save money, increase scalability and improve collaboration between teachers, students and office staff. Google’s G Suite for Education and Microsoft’s Office 365 are both free and have similar feature sets which are regularly updated. Both can be easily integrated with existing on-site technology and schools won’t need to purchase hardware to host an Exchange server. These platforms can also replace expensive Virtual Learning Environments. Cloud packages tend to be purchased via annual subscription rather than a large capital spend every 3-5 years. This gives schools greater visibility of ICT spend each year, without the worry of peaks in capital expenditure.

ICT support across MATs
The recent report from the British Education Suppliers Association (BESA) on the procurement landscape for Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) shows that 51% of MATs have centralised the procurement of ICT equipment and services; the second most commonly centralised service after utilities. Part of the reason for this is that ICT represents a large proportion of a MAT’s expenditure but used effectively technology can save MATs money and deliver improved teaching and learning. MATs are in a unique position to use economies of scale, centralised services and procurement strategies to negotiate the best value for money services to meet their needs.

Conduct security audits
An annual IT security review by an outside source is advisable. There has been a great deal of media coverage on the increase in GDPR fines in education, yet according to a survey by, the majority of the education sector failed to wipe the data from decommissioned IT equipment in the two months following the instruction of GDPR[1].
Schools hold personal and often sensitive information which means they may be a potential target for ransomware and malware attacks. ICT security audits are important to ensure correct procedures are in place to avoid data leaks and fines.

Choosing the right ICT provider

There are many ways in which schools and MATs can analyse ICT costs to identify potential savings. Start by conducting an internal IT audit to see all ICT touchpoints – from the office environments through to classrooms – and talk to staff to find out what works well. When researching IT providers, draw up a comparison showing what each company can offer and use this to work out which provider offers the best value for the specific requirements.

Try the RM Education online ICT health check to see your school’s ICT effectiveness:

Summing it up: Maths Week London celebrates official launch!

Last week, teachers, schools, educationalists and The Mayor’s Fund for London joined together at City Hall to celebrate the launch event of ‘Maths Week London’.

Maths Week London, which will take place from 10-14 June 2019, is set to become an annual event dedicated to improving children’s attitudes towards maths and inspiring more pupils, teachers and parents to improve their confidence in the teaching and learning of the subject. The event will also promote maths as an essential skill in paving the way for every career path.

Due to the huge success of ‘Maths Week Ireland’ and ‘Maths Week Scotland’, organisers, Sumdog, are now replicating this event throughout London and are calling for as many schools and teachers as possible to get involved.

The evening kicked off with an introduction from Kim Chaplain, Director of Charitable Portfolio at the Mayor’s Fund for London, who introduced the origins of Maths Week London: “Current attitudes that we have as a society towards maths is encouraging children to give up on the subject too early. The impact this has on later life can have detrimental effects. Therefore, there needs to be more support for the way maths is taught and learnt, in order to strengthen engagement, increase attainment and improve the life chances of all children. The Mayor’s Fund for London is delighted to be partnering with Maths Week London to raise awareness throughout London, and nationally, to change these attitudes and encourage more children to enjoy maths.”

Simon Pile, Assistant Head of Anson Primary, and partner school of Maths Week London said: “At Anson Primary School, we recognise the importance of making maths come alive in the classroom in order to inspire and engage our students.
“In June, our year 6 pupils will create their own business in the form of a market stall which they’ll run each lunchtime across the week. Considering costs, profits, design and advertising, pupils will learn about the economic viability of a business and will develop key collaboration skills as they work with local businesses. We’re really excited to see how they get on!”

Schools who sign up will be given access to an online resource hub which includes starter packs, ideas and maths activities for teachers and parents to use with students. Additionally, there will be free events taking place throughout the week, a competition for students and grants of up to £200 available to schools in areas of high deprivation.

Andrea Carr, Chairman of Sumdog, said: “We have already seen the huge impact that Maths Week has had throughout Scotland and Ireland with over 80,000 pupils taking part in Maths Week Scotland this year. We want to share that success by bringing Maths Week to London in 2019. We are looking to involve teachers, parents and children from across the capital in a week of maths events and activities, with the aim of changing attitudes towards mathematics and motivating young people.”
For more information, or to get involved, please visit:

Driving impact in Multi-Academy Trusts

The role of a CEO within a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) has come under much scrutiny over the past year. And the role has evolved considerably, reflecting the reality of the demands involved in overseeing a MAT. From delivering and leading its vision and strategy, to managing people and culture, improving organisational performance, sustainability and compliance and building key external and internal relationships, the role is varied, and it requires the CEO to wear many hats.
But the CEO does not work alone. The Board of Trustees have the ultimate responsibility for governance matters and the vision for the entire MAT, so it is essential for the Board and the CEO to have a cohesive relationship to enable a positive impact to be made in both the short and longer term. How can this be achieved? Andy Richardson, CEO, Dynistics, examines the challenges faced by the CEO of a MAT.
From proactive to reactive
Whilst a MAT’s CEO is usually located in just one academy, their role involves overseeing each and every academy in the trust. For some CEO’s, this could mean overseeing just two academies, but for others, this could range up to as many as 26. In this case, how can a CEO ensure the running of each academy is contributing to the strategic aims and objectives of the trust?
The CEO can’t just be a firefighter, jumping in when something doesn’t go to plan. A far more proactive strategy is required to keep all academies running in harmony. Of course, it is very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of a growing trust, losing sight of how successfully procedures are being implemented across the academies. Waiting until educational results are impacted or structures are breaking down to take action will have even greater implications down the line; should just one school in the trust fail, then, in turn, this will impact the reputation of every academy involved.
Realistically, the CEO has the answer right at their fingertips: data. The value of data in providing the transparency, accountability and visibility needed by MATs can’t be ignored – but with so much data to look at, it’s knowing where to start that can often be the problem. Adopting a system that will ensure data is in one place at all times, honing in on particular aspects to analyse and dissect, will not only give CEOs the insight they need to make informed decisions, but will ultimately allow them to save fundamental costs across the whole trust.
As well as spanning across numerous locations, the role of a CEO includes being responsible for every student, and every employee within the trust, and working closely with the school head teachers. Within this, having open lines of communication is essential to ensure that all employees have the relevant data they need to make decisions and work towards change. Having this data available 24×7 is also vital. There is a need to provide detailed information to spot any errors that may occur, monitor staff and student performance, or to identify any central changes the trust has made to its academies or the structure. A visual representation of data will give CEOs and all staff the ability to do just that, in a quick and straightforward manner.
Looking to the future
As easy as it would be for a CEO to get caught up in analysing past events, the role must also include planning strategically for the terms or academic years ahead. The insight gained from data analytics enables CEOs of MATs to look at where potential gaps might be or where improvements need to be made and plan accordingly, with proposals to the Board backed up with data to provide accountability where necessary.
The role of a MAT CEO is not an easy task, but technology can certainly help. Having accurate, insightful data at the touch of a button will help the CEO to make quick, impactful decisions that contribute to the future growth of the trust. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does have the ability to make a huge impact on the success of the entire MAT. It’s time to get started. Are you ready?

Government period poverty plans ‘must go further’ and address eco impact


The government’s pledge to provide free sanitary products in all secondary schools and colleges across England is welcome news, but does not yet go far enough to eradicate period poverty and will not solve the environmental crisis of incorrect disposal of sanitary items., a national drainage firm that deals with fatberg removal, urges the government to extend the new funding to primary schools, where many young girls struggle to afford basic sanitary items.

#FreePeriods – a petition to take legal action to end period poverty, led by student Amika George – gained thousands of signatures and led to a protest outside Downing Street. Speaking after the chancellor announced the funding in his Spring Statement, Amika said: “The policy announced today would cover only secondary schools and colleges, leaving thousands of children behind. For example, there can be no good reason to exclude children at primary school, who may begin menstruating from as young as eight or nine, from the scope of this scheme.”

Lanes Group also stresses the importance of educating girls at primary and secondary school age on the correct disposal of sanitary products, as many pupils are instructed to flush tampons, applicators and wrappers, which is having a huge environmental impact and polluting the nation’s waterways with microplastics.

A survey of 1,200 people conducted by Lanes Group in 2018 found that more than a third of respondents (39%) have flushed either a sanitary towel, panty liner or tampon down the toilet in their lifetime, which amounts to as many as 20 million women when you apply that to the female population across the UK.

The research found that just 3 per cent of women consider environmental impact when choosing sanitary products, while 46 per cent prioritise comfort and 17 per cent believe cost is the most important factor.

Some 52 per cent of women said they use sanitary towels more than any other period product, while 49 per cent use tampons most, only 3 per cent use eco-friendly mooncups and 1 per cent use sanitary underwear.

Michelle Ringland, Head of Marketing at Lanes Group, said: “The chancellor’s decision to provide free sanitary products in all secondary schools and colleges in England from the next academic year is a great achievement for all those who have campaigned over this, but there is still a way to go if we want to fully address period poverty among young children.

“Firstly, I would like to see the funding extended to primary schools, as many young girls start their periods at that stage and could have already suffered years of period poverty before they reach secondary school.

“Next, I would like to see much more education overall about the use of sanitary products, which is currently missing from the school curriculum. Young girls should be taught about all the options available to them – including eco-friendly products which are increasingly popular – and how best to dispose of sanitary items.

“It is shocking to hear that many girls are told that the best way to get rid of a used tampon, applicator and wrapper is to flush it down the toilet, when none of these products are biodegradable and either cause blockages such as fatbergs or release microplastics that are released into the waterways and prove fatal to marine life.”

When asked whether they agree that people in the UK need to be more aware that sanitary products should not be flushed down the toilet, some 63 per cent of survey respondents said they “strongly agree”.

Further information from the survey and other research by is illustrated in a downloadable infographic, available at:

Roding Valley High School flies flag for state schools at UK Mathematics Trust competition

Roding Valley High School claimed the title of highest scoring state school at UK Mathematics Trust’s (UKMT) Regional Team Maths Challenge 2019; a competition which challenges schools from across the country to tackle mathematical challenges in their local areas with the opportunity to progress to the national final taking place in June 2019.

The Roding Valley High School team scooped fourth place overall out of 29 state and independent schools. The team, made up of two girls, Skye and Chloe, and two boys, Joseph and Zak, from year 8 and 9, combined their individual skills to work seamlessly together; a winning combination that sees Roding Valley High School move up 10 places from its ranking in 2018.

Shahidur Rahman, Mathematics Key Stage 4 Coordinator, said: “We are extremely proud of our young mathematicians, not only for their skill and teamwork but for the level of determination they displayed at the event, which was noticed and highlighted by other schools attending the competition.”

Roding Valley High School Mathematics Department’s vision is to develop mathematicians who are confident in the use of maths both in the classroom and in real life. Entry into the UKMT Team Maths Challenge is just one of the many ways that the school looks to make this vision a reality, and the students are already looking to develop their strategies for the 2020 competition.

Sharon Jenner, Head of school, said: “Mathematics is something our students have always thrived at here at Roding Valley High School, and it’s fulfilling to see the skills we teach our students in the classroom being used to take them further outside of school. These four students have represented the school brilliantly; not just academically, but by demonstrating our school’s values and ethos.”