With preparations underway for the Wales STEM Awards 2021, we couldn’t help but reflect on the incredible achievements of our 2020 winners.

Following the inaugural award ceremony last year, we caught up with the class of 2020 to share their stories with you.

Next up we have the Office for National Statistics who were named winner of the STEM Educational Programme of the Year award for their implementation of a free primary school education programme aimed to engage children with statistics, build statistical literacy and confidence, and create a legacy for the ONS. All while increasing awareness, trust and understanding of the census amongst pupils and their families to drive higher census completions.

What does your company do?

At the Office for National Statistics (ONS), we collect, analyse and disseminate statistics about the UK’s economy, society and population.

The ONS are also responsible for running the Census 2021. The next digital-first census will be held on 21st March 2021 and provides a snapshot of households in England and Wales. It informs decisions nationally and locally on vital services and issues like diversity. Ultimately it ensures millions of pounds are invested in emergency services, mental health care, school places, hospital beds, houses, and roads based on the information people give.

Why did you enter the Wales STEM Awards?

We wanted to celebrate the success of our primary school programme during the 2019 census rehearsal and how it served to benefit mathematical skills for pupils in Wales.

Our primary school programme, Let’s Count!, was developed in conjunction with Family & Education and their education resource centre iChild, and aimed to excite and engage children and families with census.

With maths and statistics at its core, the cross-curricular programme encouraged children to understand the relevance of statistics to a range of other subjects including History, English, Science, Art and Geography, and to feel confident when applying them.

90.9% of teachers believed Let’s Count! made a positive educational impact at their school and 81.8% said their pupils were strongly engaged with the activities. Additionally, 93.3% of parents at participating schools said their child enjoyed taking part.

After the success of Let’s Count! during the census rehearsal, we have rolled out the programme to all schools in England and Wales as part of the Census 2021 campaign. Primary schools can register for the programme here – https://letscount.org.uk/

What does winning a Wales STEM Awards mean for your business?

We are thrilled to have won the Wales STEM Award for Education Programme of the Year. We’re extremely proud of Let’s Count! and the positive impact it’s had on schools and the STEM sector in Wales.

Winning the award has provided us with a positive platform to deliver the programme for Census 2021, allowing us to engage schools across England and Wales and develop STEM skills. 

What did you think of the virtual awards ceremony?

The ceremony was certainly a different experience, but it was impeccably run and I enjoyed drinking wine in my pjs while watching along!

What’s been a challenge for your business during the last year and how did you overcome it?

As you can imagine, the pandemic has provided many challenges for us in relation to schools and school closures. However, this has resulted in our delivering a really versatile primary school programme for Census 2021 that has been designed to be taught both in the classroom or remotely for virtual delivery in the event of school closures. Teachers and parents will be able to use the free resources to deliver cross-curriculum lessons.

What are your goals for 2021?

In 2021, we are excited to be launching and running both primary and secondary school programmes to highlight the importance of the census and develop STEM skills across England and Wales.

As part of the next census, happening on 21st March 2021, we have launched our primary school programme to all schools across England and Wales. Over 5,000 primary schools have signed up for Let’s Count! so far and registered schools can now access free online resources, including 14 lesson plans and other engaging activities. The programme will also include a special live stream lesson on equality and representation, delivered by British historian, Professor David Olusoga OBE on 4th February 2021.

For more information and to register for Let’s Count!, go to https://letscount.org.uk/

We have also launched a secondary school campaign for students to learn about census. Following the success of Let’s Count! during the 2019 census rehearsal, we developed a secondary school programme in conjunction with EVERFI EdComs. Over 800 secondary schools have signed up for the programme so far and have access to brand new resources, including in-depth lessons specific to curriculum topics like maths, geography and history. Students will have the opportunity to identify the geographical and historical reasons behind patterns of change in their communities. The interactive lesson will also give students the chance to solve a range of graphical data problems. They will explore the fictional island ‘Statistopia’ to bring the census to life and support their problem-solving skills.

For more information and to register for the census secondary school programme, go to https://censuseducation.org.uk/

What, in your opinion, can be done to inspire more young people to pursue careers in STEM?

We want to inspire younger generations to develop STEM skills and believe that cross-curricular, interactive programmes like Let’s Count! play a vital role in helping the STEM sector in Wales.

For example, Let’s Count! is specifically designed to cater to the Welsh curriculum, covering a range of subjects, including STEM specific mathematics. Stakeholders like Education Wales and the Welsh Government helped us to shape the content for the programme to ensure the greatest benefits to primary schools in Wales.

The programme focusses greatly on mathematical and statistical skills. The lesson plans include activities such as conducting surveys, displaying data in graphs and charts, and applying this to wider context. The resources include tally chart templates, prompts for survey questions and examples of graphs to help pupils learn all the elements of collecting and presenting data.

Exciting and interactive programmes like Let’s Count! provide a great opportunity to inspire more young people to pursue careers in STEM. By creating innovative programmes that engage pupils in STEM subjects, young people will be inspired to pursue further opportunities in this industry.