Convincing senior leaders of the benefits of embedding engineering in the primary curriculum

There are many reasons why engineering should be incorporated into the primary curriculum in some form, whether it be a whole school event, as part of a lesson or as an after-school club.  

However, with headteachers facing a lack of funding, the stress of inspections and SATs, phonic screening and times table checks, they may need convincing that engineering – usually associated with GCSEs and above – will result in tangible benefits for primary children.  

Below are some of the ways engineering can enhance teaching and learning in primary schools – they can make convincing discussion points when trying to persuade senior leaders.



Engineering connects the curriculum to children’s lives.

The school curriculum should not be seen as chunks of knowledge and skills to teach and tick off. It needs to be relevant to the children’s lives and the community they live in. It should provide opportunities for children to apply their knowledge and skills to deepen their understanding.  

Engineering touches every aspect of children’s lives – at home, at school and in the wider community. It can provide relevant contexts for applying knowledge and skills in a range of subjects – not only science and maths, but also IT, design and technology, English, art, RSE and geography. The use of engineering contexts can make connections between lessons and children’s personal experiences, giving real-world meaning to children’s learning and making it accessible to all. 

Engineering develops key life skills.

Using engineering contexts not only gives children the chance to apply knowledge, implement topic-based skills and deepen their understanding, but also helps develop key life skills. Tackling engineering challenges fosters skills such as problem-solving, resilience, creativity, communication and critical thinking, as well as promoting collaboration and curiosity.  

By introducing engineering concepts early on, we can nurture a generation of innovative thinkers who are better equipped to address complex issues. 

Engineering connects subjects.

Children learn better when their brain makes connections. Engineering contexts draw on knowledge and skills from a wide variety of subjects, especially science, maths and DT, creating connections that make sense and are not contrived.  

Not only do these connections mean learning is boosted, but it also helps to remove the feeling children might have of ‘I’m not a maths person’ or ‘I’m not sciencey’, especially as there is no expected or ‘right’ answer to most engineering problems or challenges the children tackle. 

Engineering meets the varied needs and interests of the class.

Engineering contexts offer hands on opportunities to revisit and apply varied knowledge and skills while working to collaboratively solve social problems that are relevant to children’s lives – it employs heart, body and mind.  

There is something for every child – ones that are arty, ones who enjoy maths, ones who like working with others, ones who are great communicators, ones who are empathetic, ones who are lateral thinkers, ones who love science, ones that like making, etc. Engineering can meet the varied needs and interests of the class.  

This also applies to parents and family members. With such a wide range of knowledge and skills used in engineering, there are more options to engage families and involve them with their child’s learning.

Engineering complements the Primary Science Capital Teaching Approach.

Although most children find science interesting, many see it as irrelevant to them and their lives. Science can be perceived as being all about laboratories, white coats and doctors, and only for the very clever. This is especially true for socially disadvantaged children.  

The Primary Science Capital Teaching Approach outlines ways in which teachers can help children feel science is for them and many can be employed through engineering: 

  • Starting with the child and thinking how topics connect to their lives, interests and experiences. 
  • Fostering inclusive teaching and learning by ensuring topics are relatable and providing activities where all can showcase their skills and knowledge. 
  • Supporting student voice and agency by encouraging children to lead their learning and direct decisions.  
  • Personalising and localising, helping children find relevance and meaning in their learning.  
  • Eliciting and valuing children’s personal knowledge and experiences then linking them to the curriculum. 
  • Building science capital by connecting children with a diverse range of people who use science in their jobs, highlighting that science skills and knowledge are transferable and applied in everyday life in all sorts of ways, encouraging children to engage in science related activities outside of school.  

Written by Tracy Tyrrell, Fellow of the Primary Science Teacher College.