Our work with schools
Solutions for the Planet’s Big Ideas programme is a science, technology engineering and maths (STEM) programme with a focus on sustainability and entrepreneurship. It is delivered in partnership with companies based locally, who support teams of students (in KS3 or S1-3) to generate solutions or ‘Big Ideas’ to sustainability issues. These Big Ideas are submitted to our competition with regional finals held at a universities and the national final at the Houses of Parliament in London.
The Big Ideas programme builds young peoples’ motivation to learn about science, technology, engineering, maths and environmental issues supported by companies that are leading in these fields internationally. Entrepreneurship, teamwork, business planning and public presentation skills are central to the whole process. Schools are left to select which year group and how many students they would like to participate in the programme each year. We encourage schools to involve a whole year group at the Big Ideas Day(s).
Our school partners
Find out more about schools who are currently signed up to the programme here.
We currently deliver the programme with Key Stage 3 and S1-3 students in schools across North England & Scotland (Leeds, Bradford, Newcastle and Glasgow), the West Midlands (Wolverhampton and Solihull) and the South East (London Borough of Newham, Kent and Portsmouth).
A region usually involves ten schools. Some of the benefits that students see from the programme are:
- High quality learning opportunities through challenging tasks that extend previous knowledge, skills and understanding of students, particularly around STEM
- Opportunities for practical and technical skills to be developed
- Development of students’ creativity, imagination, problem solving and presentation skills
- Increased self-confidence and ability to be independent learners, creative thinkers and team workers
- Mentoring from industry professionals
- High levels of motivation to get to the finals in London and possibility for their idea to be recognized and adopted by industry
- Inspiration to take action and lead change on issues that matter to them
- Increased access of vocational opportunities, including apprenticeships
- Increased awareness and aspirations often in previously unconsidered areas
Some of the additional benefits that schools see from the programme are:
- Enhances the curriculum (particularly in Science, Maths, Geography, Citizenship, Design & Technology and ICT)
- Staff development opportunities
- New learning opportunities through sustained interaction with local industry and community partners
- Careers information, raising awareness of the opportunities available in this industry through partnership with local companies
New learning opportunities through sustained interaction with local industry and community partners. Careers information, raising awareness of the opportunities available in this industry through partnership with local companies.
Meet the teams
Our teams of young people work together, with their business mentors and teachers, to create amazing Big Ideas to solve local, national and global sustainability problems. Over the course of six to eight months our teams share ideas, develop new skills and learn how to work effectively as a team. Over the last three years we’ve had over 1000 Big Ideas, from across our School Partners, take part in the programme. We asked some of last years’ teams to tell us a little bit more about themselves and what they got out of participating in Solutions for the Planet.
Quwwat Ul Islam School, Newham
“The S4TP team empowers young people and women like us and encourages us to really think big” Student from Vitaliite
“S4TP has encouraged me to go in to the STEM fields” Student from Vitaliite
Alderbrook School, Solihull
“The S4TP programme helped me grow my confidence” Student from E-Waste
Quwwat Ul Islam School, Newham
“The S4TP team empowers young people and women like us and encourages us to really think big” Student from Vitaliite
Meet the teachers
Our fantastic teachers from participating schools lead on the programme in their schools, running development sessions which mentors are invited to attend. They work with the teams from their schools, creatively and collaboratively, to develop they Big Ideas. We asked some of our current teachers to tell us a little bit more about themselves and what they get out of delivering the Big Ideas programme in their schools.
Plashet School, Newham
Position: SLE / SSAT Science Lead Practitioner & STEM Club Leader
“I would encourage others schools to participate in this project because it’s a fantastic programme that allows for cross-curricular collaboration.”
Read more from Ann
The Head Teacher at our school is very supportive and encourages staff to get involved in STEM related projects that facilitates cross-curricular collaboration.
My Line Manager told me about the programme and after visiting the Solutions for the Plant website I signed up for the training day session. The training day was very interactive, thorough, interesting and informative. We had the opportunity to trial various activities and strategies that we could utilize when introducing the programme to the students. I was able to meet and network with sponsors, mentors and other teachers who would be working on the project throughout the year.
At the Big Ideas Day the students had to collaborate and communicate effectively. They had to listen to ideas from their peers and make quick decisions. Throughout the year the students learnt how to work as part of a team. They had to utilize ICT skills and complete research. They had to think critically, create and design campaigns and develop various methods of presenting their project ideas to others. The students learnt how to write business plans and plan fund raising events.
When preparing for the semi-finals and finals the students learnt how to speak clearly, and present their ideas and work precisely and confidently to an audience. They also learnt how to write emails and letters to various companies outside of school. The students developed a real passion for their projects and the variety of tasks and roles available for each group meant that every student was involved and benefitted from the project in one way or another.
I developed networking and collaborative skills. I had to consistently provide verbal feedback and help students set SMART targets as they completed their project. I had to liaise with other colleagues and mentors when planning the Big Ideas Day. I had to be extremely organised and ensure that appropriate paper work was completed.
The best part of the programme was seeing the confidence that the students had developed over the duration of the project. I was impressed with the creative and clever project ideas that the students developed. I was also very pleased to see 11 teams from our school make it through to the Semi-Finals. The Semi-Finals was held at the prestigious University of Greenwich and the students were given a tour of the grounds which they thoroughly enjoyed. They also got the opportunity to interact with University students and students from other schools. On Semi-Finals day we were first and second and were worthy opponents at the Finals which were held at the Houses of Parliament. The students were excited about visiting the Houses of Parliament and were inspired by the various Members of Parliament, judges and sponsors from Tarmac and SGN who spoke to them on the day.
I gained a deeper understanding of the responsibility that I have to preserve the environment for future generations. I also learnt a lot about my students. I was very impressed with how creative, clever and astute all the students projects were. It was interesting to see students who were usually very quiet come into their own and work with interest when completing various tasks of their project. Their business ideas were mature and sophisticated and they demonstrated that they could design products that could rival any merchandise that is currently available on the market.
The most challenging part was trying to get students to make their project achievable. At times they had grand ideas with massive start-up costs so it was challenging helping them to decide on products or campaigns that were realistic and achievable.
‘Solutions for the Planet’ is a fantastic programme that provides the opportunity for students to learn more about the problems facing our Planet. It allows students to develop creative and sustainable campaigns; products and services that will help solve some of the problems that we currently face on the Planet. Students will get the opportunity to collaborate with their peers and learn how to communicate and present their ideas clearly to others. It caters for all types of learners and will build the confidence of students and provide the opportunity for them to work independently.
I would encourage others schools to participate in this project because it’s a fantastic programme that allows for cross-curricular collaboration. It also provides students with the opportunity to become more aware of some of the environmental problems facing our Planet. It will allow students to take responsibility for their own learning by giving them the opportunity to design, create and run their own projects.
Participating in the programme has met my expectations however; I was more impressed with the benefits gained by the students. Their improved critical thinking skills and increased levels of confidence was a joy to see. Sometimes they got very competitive with each other which only made each team improve the quality of their work. If you want to provide the opportunity for your students to engage in a challenging, exciting, fun and stimulating project then I would highly recommend Solutions for the Planet.
Alderbrook School, Solihull
Position: Science Teacher and STEM Coordinator
“Solutions for the Planet is a great programme to inspire and develop students into independent confident individuals. It has made me more aware of the issues surrounding our planet and how amazing our students are! “
Read more from Mandy
Alderbrook School got involved with Solutions for the Planet as it was a STEM activity that fitted into my job role and it sounded like an all-round activity that students would be interested in. I personally feel it is important to make students aware of different STEM careers and also because am interested in making the planet a better place for future generations.
All of the students have gained a lot of confidence and learnt how to work well as a part of a team. They understand how to develop ideas and market them. They are also now very aware of the issues surrounding the environment. Being involved has made me more aware of the issues surrounding our planet.
The best part of the programme has been seeing the students develop from shy into confident individuals and getting to the finals.
Solutions for the Planet has made me more aware of the issues surrounding our planet. How amazing our students are! The most challenging part of the programme was getting the students to attend and complete on time and the amount of time I have had to give myself.
Solutions for the Planet is a great programme to inspire and develop students into independent confident individuals.
Participating in the programme has met my expectations because two of my teams managed to get into the finals!! I would say to other schools go for it, you will be amazed at what the students can achieve, although it is hard work you will be feel proud at what they achieve.
Tong High School, Bradford
Position: Consultant (Retired Primary Head teacher)
“S4TP is an exciting environmental project which gives students the opportunity to develop confidence and skills as they go on a journey to improve something in the world that they feel passionate about.”
Read more from Chris
Tong High School got involved in Solutions for the Planet three years ago because we were looking for an opportunity for Y7 students to develop new skills and have the opportunity to do something positive, working with others, to improve the environment.
Personally, I have always been interested in Environmental Education and as I was supporting the new Y7 students at Tong I jumped at the chance to take the lead and support the students.
I have the students involved grow in confidence in many areas;
They have further developed their research skills
They have a greater understanding of what is needed to develop a Business Plan
They have improved their presentation skills greatly and
They have learnt to cooperate and work collectively in a team.
They loved having the opportunity to further develop their original ideas and many students commented that the work they completed was the best thing they have done all year!
One of the more challenging parts of the programme is that I am not in school every day. This has meant I have had to rely on others a lot of the time, however, the full time staff have given me great support and I can tell they really value the project.S4TP is an exciting environmental project which gives students the opportunity to develop confidence and skills as they go on a journey to improve something in the world that they feel passionate about.
Don’t hesitate, get involved! I have seen the positive impact it can have in school.
Heath Park School, Wolverhampton
Position: Science Teacher
“Solutions for the Planet is a programme to help pupils think about the planet and it’s future, as well as their own. It develops a lot of interpersonal skills in doing so… Do it!”
Read more from Gareth
Heath Park chose to work with Solutions for the Planet to extend our beyond curriculum learning within the STEM subjects and Entrepreneurship.
I have always had a passion for the importance of young people’s education beyond the classroom and experiencing things which are not usually accessible in the classroom or lab.
Our students have learnt the importance of
- ownership of their own work
- taking opportunities that take them beyond the curriculum
They have developed
- STEM knowledge
- Business/entrepreneurship knowledge
- Confidence in presenting and talking to others
As a teacher I have really appreciated the importance of STEM and entrepreneurship for future generations.
My teaching has improved through teaching pupils something outside of my specialism and opened my eyes to opportunities that are out there for out young people.
Seeing the students representing the school in such a professional environment and manner has been one of the best parts to the programme.
Committing time outside of school to see all pupils is definitely one of the few challenges. There are so many good ideas. It is difficult to give as much time as you really want to all teams because you get so involved with them all. Work with other staff as well as the business mentors really helps.
Solutions for the Planet is a programme to help pupils think about the planet and it’s future, as well as their own. It develops a lot of interpersonal skills in doing so.
I would say to other considering participation in the programme “Do it!”
Participating in the programme has very much met my expectiations. It does a lot of young people a lot of good, so it must be a winner!
Dixons City Academy, Bradford
Position: Computer Science Teacher and Student Voice Coordinator
“I would recommend the programme as the benefits are wide reaching, not just to the students, but also to the school through raising the aspirations of the students involved and encouraging other students to get actively involved in making positive changes.”
Read more from Debbie
We have been involved with the S4TP programme for over fours, in that time we have had a huge success with this within school. Initially we decided to register for the programme to help encourage students to think more about global issues and sustainability. The take up at first was mostly students who were working on the Student Council and were keen to further develop the environmental work they had been doing for Eco Schools. In the second year, this changed and we had a wider range of students wanting to get involved.
The S4TP programme challenges students to think about current environmental issues and think about feasible solutions that they can deliver. Through the process of the programme students develop a wide range of skills such as leadership, project management, financial planning, communication and presentation skills. The documentation that students are required to produce stretches them even further. Throughout the programme students work alongside mentors from the Business sector, not only does this help them with the skills they are building but gives them access to find out about employment opportunities and potential future career paths.
As clichéd as it sounds, it is extremely rewarding to see your students participate and develop through the programme. Seeing them working outside of the classroom, owning their projects and working on them with such passion and enthusiasm, instils an immense sense of pride.
I believe that the S4TP programme is a perfect way to develop true independent learners through inspiring the students and giving them control of what they want to pursue as their Big Idea. I would recommend the programme as the benefits are wide reaching, not just to the students, but also to the school through raising the aspirations of the students involved and encouraging other students to get actively involved in making positive changes.