• Vonni Hardman

Rising to the Challenge - by Vonni

ATOMS Education CIC was formed in May 2019 by a group of education professionals who recognised that there was a need for opportunities for cross curricular learning focused around STEAM subjects. We were disillusioned with the narrow and rigid curriculum and the emphasis on high stakes assessment on our children within schools and felt like it was taking the fun out of learning. Children love to learn and they do it best when they are having fun, particularly when they are in early years and primary education. The current high stakes testing and accountability system is broken and we wanted to teach in the ways we knew worked for the children and to ensure that it was inclusive, fun and engaging to foster a love of learning. One of our amazing directors Stacey had already tested the water and had started the groundwork so when she invited us along to join her we jumped right in.

We came up with the name ATOMS as an acronym for Arts, Technology, Oracy, Maths and Science and in May 2019 we all signed the forms and submitted them to Companies House and we were literally in the not for profit business.

Initially we worked in the community and built partnerships with schools, nurseries and community organisations and were becoming established in the area when we were affected, as were lots of other organisations, by the Covid pandemic.

After some panicking about what was going to happen we decided we would look at new ways of working, including providing activity kits which include all the resources and instructions needed to carry out some teacher designed activities. We quickly realised as a not for profit we would need some funding to deliver these in the numbers needed. We also needed to re-evaluate some existing grants in order to deliver the projects virtually to keep our staff, children and communities safe. We rose to this challenge along with some awesome funders.

As well as this we were successful in some new funding bids and also took orders from community organisations to provide educational activity kits which enabled us to provide these for free to children and their families. Throughout these lockdowns we have been delivering home school stationery and activity packs both direct from ourselves and in partnership with some schools and community groups including other Community Interest Companies - Citizen Songwriters CIC and Sens8tional CIC.

We were also providing online educational workshops using the Zoom platform beginning in April and still do so now. Again many of these were free thanks to our funders and we continue to provide this service. When we have funding we will run online sessions for free and when we don’t we will provide them at a low cost. We also have free activity cards which you can download from our website for free here.

From the initial challenges of working in a new way we quickly established a model that worked for us and to date we have worked with well over 3000 young people and their families on a multitude of projects.

Developing our online learning has seen us branch out of our local area with families from all over the UK including as far as Scotland and Dorset and internationally with families joining in from Thailand! Indeed we will be working to maintain our online presence even when we can get back into the community; we will have our Cake Ninja's cake and eat it too!

Don't forget you can check us out on social media - we have facebook, twitter and LinkedIn pages where we post what we are up to regularly.

For an extra treat and because there is nothing better for the soul than seeing happy children learn you can check out our review of 2020 on You Tube. Forgive the Christmassy theme, that's when we made the video.

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