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Parents’ back to school blues STEM from the new curriculum

Ahead of our first Astonishing Family Science Weekend this September, we really wanted to find out what parents think about STEM (that’s science, technology, engineering and maths to those of us that sat O-Levels!)

I’m in the same boat as many other parents in that subjects such as coding are just not things we were taught about ‘back then’. But our science weekends are not just for the little ones to find the fun in STEM, they’re for the whole family – so we wanted to make sure we knew how we could help parents get as much out of them as their children!

When we surveyed 2,000 parents, we were pretty surprised at the results. A year on from the introduction of the new school curriculum, two-thirds of parents have admitted that they think their child is smarter than they are! That’s the case in our house – my eldest helps me make my Powerpoint presentations ‘sic’ (his word, not mine), and my youngest sets up apps on my iPad!

So it’s no surprise that the most pressing ‘back to school’ anxiety for many parents is whether or not they, and their children, can keep up with the new curriculum. It’s a far cry from worrying about new school uniform or if they’ve got a geometry set!

In order to brush up on their knowledge over a third of parents even research the curriculum ahead of the school year with over half spending up to a week of the summer holidays getting themselves up to speed! I’ll admit to asking my son about the sorts of things he’s been doing in Science, just so I can refresh (or should that be begin!) my knowledge.

I’m not at all surprised that one in five parents admitted that they would struggle with today’s more STEM-focused curriculum – I would! In fact parents admitted they often struggle to help their child with their homework – especially when it comes to coding, along with other modern sciences.

It seems many parents just don’t feel comfortable enough with the new computing curriculum to help their little ones with homework.  When we presented parents with a list of common computing and coding words found within the curriculum – such as Boolean and Unicode – most admitted to not knowing what a single one meant (I know what Luddite means, if that’s of any use!).

But, despite their struggles, many parents admit that these subjects are incredibly important for their eager Einstein’s to master with 20 per cent believing that computing is the most important subject at school. In fact, more parents favour STEM subjects over traditional subjects such as art, geography, music and religious studies.

With almost half of parents we spoke to saying they wished they had more support from schools or the government to understand what their children are learning at school – we decided Butlin’s could help.

Alongside our amazing partners from The Astonishing Family Science Weekend, including The Cambridge Centre for Computing History, we have created parent-friendly downloadable worksheets on everything from coding to physics, covering key terms and providing fun family activities to bring an ‘element’ of fun to science over the summer holidays!

We’ll be releasing a new worksheet every week throughout August right here so parents will never again get caught out by their child’s STEM questions.

And for when you need to dash onto your Twitter feed to get quick homework answers in the new school term, we will be on hand to help again. Throughout September we will be running a series of #AsktheExpert sessions with our Astonishing Family Science Weekend partners on the @Butlins Twitter feed. Held between 5 and 6pm – when our research shows most children do their homework – our panel of experts will be on hand to solve even the trickiest STEM query!

Right, back to programming my SkyPlus… with a little help from my sons!

Andrew French