Rolls-Royce Science Prize 2017-18

Finalist 2018

November Update:

This month we have some exciting news; At the start of this month we moved into a new building! We can’t really call ourselves ‘Project House’ anymore because we are now the proud tenants of a community centre.  The ‘hub’ (as it will be known) is a run down and unloved building on the Brune Park Community School site. The building is used by several different community groups throughout the week but no one has ‘ownership’ and because of this it is not treated well. The gardens are overgrown, benches are broken, the kitchen is just a work top and a kettle, and the furniture is vandalised and broken. On the upside it has great potential to be an amazing space for the whole community.

On Thursday 16th we had our first opportunity to welcome our Rolls Royce mentor, Gill Fennel, to our school; we had a fantastic day showcasing the skills and knowledge that we have put to good use this month in our new building. Below are some of the many photos that can be found on our twitter feed.


This month we have worked on two topics for science whilst we have been doing our practical work. Firstly, we had to cut back the bramble bushes and overgrown weeds at the front of the building – it was like a jungle! This was a great opportunity to talk about the conditions from growing plants. We also touched upon photosynthesis and we have decided that we will do a more in depth project on this when spring arrives and we start to grow from seed. Whilst we were cutting back the brambles we also spoke about adaptation and how plants and animals protect themselves. The students independently discovered that many fruit bushes have thorns to stop birds and insects landing and climbing on them to steal the fruit. Nature is awesome!

Secondly, we had to paint one of the rooms which allowed us to talk about what paint is? how is it made?, and, how does it dry? The students confidently explained the key words of emulsify and evaporate to our mentor, Gill.


Our first technology & engineering project was to reclaim and rebuild the broken benches at the hub. This really is a big job. Firstly, they are very old and the wood has degraded over time – many of the pieces have also been broken through misuse. Secondly, they are very heavy and the bases are made of concrete. Third, the nuts and bolts are so old they have rusted together. Students first did an evaluation of the benches to see what we could salvage and reuse. We then planned, measured and drew the part we needed to replace. We decided that it would be better to have 2 working benches than 3 broken ones, so we planned to use wood from the most damage bench to make the new joists for the other 2 benches. The photos below show us trying to remove the rusty nuts and bolts.


Maths is easy to squeeze into any DIY project so we have been quite lucky in our cross-curricular learning. The painters needed to work out area of surface and volume of paint. The tilers worked out area, worked through different tessellation patterns. Another fantastic opportunity for functional maths is both money and time. Students have had to buy paint and tiles whilst sticking to a budget, and they have also had to carefully plan the hours of work to stick to a set schedule. Maths is everywhere!

Community Profile of the month: Paul C

Paul is one of our student’s parents and often lends a hand with our practical work. He has taught several of our boys how to tile surfaces, use equipment safely and lay a floor. Being a parent to a child with SEMH needs and ADHD he has a natural ability to communicate with our students in a way they understand and respect. It also has fantastic benefits for his own relationship with his son, “it’s great to see him working well both individually and as part of a team. Not many parents get to see what their kids get up to in school, usually when I ask what he has been doing he says ‘nothing’ – now I know that’s not true. Its brilliant to see students learning Maths and Science in practical ways that they will use in the future. This project is also fantastic because all my children will be able to use the youth centre when it is finished, they will also respect it more because we have worked on it together”.


Budget & Evaluation
Date Item Cost
9/11 Paint £45
9/11 Paintbrushes/Roller £27
16/11 Tiles £32
16/11 Adhesive £12
16/11 Tools £36
TOTAL £152

We have a robust system at school for tracking learning engagement, progress and how students are working upon individual targets that are set as part of their Education, Health and Care Plan. With this system we can see how well students are doing but most importantly their progress over time. In November STEM was the highest achieving subject in terms of engagement with learning.  Over the coming months we will evaluate in different ways to show the impact of our project.

Week School Average % STEM %
1 65% 88%
2 67% 91%
3 71% 92%
4 69% 87%




October Update:

Hello and welcome to the LWS Academy Rolls Royce Science Prize blog. This is my first ever blog so please bear with me! Firstly, let me introduce you to the team… I’m Donna Gale-Page, the project lead, I have been working at LWS for 11 years. I have worked in many different roles and have taught many of the subjects we offer. The project was an idea I had to address a staff shortage in middle of last year- teaching both maths and science at the same time through project based learning. As you have probably seen on our school website, we are a special school for boys with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs. The large majority of our students have been excluded from mainstream school and are disengaged with learning. The ‘project house’ curriculum has really played to our students’ strengths and interests; hands on learning with a worthwhile practical outcome.

During the first 6 months of the project we have worked hard to renovate a disused school building: we have painted; wallpapered; laid floors; put up tiles; made furniture; upcycled;  designed and built stand alone flower and vegetable beds, grown our own fruit and veg from seed and made food with our produce – and most importantly had fun and learned a lot about science, maths, technology and OURSELVES!

Other members of our amazing team are Charlotte Hurst (who returned from maternity leave the day we became a finalist). Charlotte is an experienced SEMH teacher who has been teaching Science at LWS Academy for 4 years. Gail Newman, Design Technology teacher, has worked at the school for 13 years – she has an array of technology and engineering skills that will be invaluable to the project. Ioannis Chatzopolous, who will not be directly teaching the project but will be on hand to support with all things maths. Tom Dawkins, ICT &Communications manager who will support with IT, robotics, technology and most importantly will document our journey from start to finish. We are also lucky to have Andrew Saunders, who works at the school school part time. Andrew has a wealth of technology and engineering knowledge and has helped students develop and push ideas further than I thought was possible.

We have been back at school for 5 weeks and we have made a good start on our project. Year 7, 8 & 9 have chosen their first decoration jobs – each group will have their own room to renovate. So far, plans include a computer room, a calm relaxing room and the student bathroom. Sigma group have decided to focus on the garden area. The planning for each of the rooms is almost complete; working out the area to see how much paint/wallpaper is needed, budgeting for the project, deciding what type of paint is needed for each room depending on its properties. Sigma group have researched the types of plants that will grow in the winter and prepared the garden beds. As you can see in our photos, its amazing how much science and maths can be found when you are renovating a house.

Budget Update

Date Item Cost
20/9 3 x Chrome Books £600
10/10 Trailer £50
11/10 Microbit projects £319
Total £969

The students had to work out area and find out how many tiles they needed for the job. They also had to choose products that would stay in budget. They also investigated patterns in which tile and flooring are laid.

The students also had to budget and measure spaces for furniture. Some students had the very important job of keeping the work force fed- we had a variety of cakes and lunches, some even using our home grown produce.

There is also some exciting news on the horizon, we may have the possibility of getting a bigger and better building for our project. This would have an even bigger impact on the students and the project, as it would serve a wide community rather than just our school.

We are looking forward to doing our practical tasks over the coming weeks –please check out our twitter feed @LWSAcademy


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