Sir James Dyson, Founder of Dyson and Gresham’s alumnus, has donated £18.75 million to Gresham’s School in Holt, Norfolk to enable a new centre for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education. The Dyson Building will be designed by Dyson’s architects Wilkinson Eyre, the first practice to achieve two consecutive wins of both the Lubetkin Prize and the Stirling Prize. It will be located at the heart of Gresham’s Senior School, and will be completed by September 2021.
Douglas Robb, Gresham’s Headmaster, said: “This is by far the largest donation the school has ever received and the new spaces will have an immense impact on the quality of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics education that our students receive, now and for decades to come. We are hugely grateful to Sir James and are excited that our partnership will be a long lasting one. We look forward to working with the James Dyson Foundation to develop new and inventive approaches to teaching and with The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology to explore exciting long-term opportunities for our students to pursue careers in engineering.”
The building will enable new approaches to teaching, encouraging project work and collaboration. Spaces will be equipped with the latest technology to ensure the highest levels of teaching; from robotics and programming, to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The building will also provide greatly improved opportunities for the outreach programme which Gresham’s runs with local schools.
Sir James Dyson said, “Engineering and science are the most fulfilling of careers, they are also vitally important to our society and economy. To prime a pipeline of young people who want to study engineering, we must inspire them at the earliest possible stage – I hope this building will do just that. For 20 years, my Foundation has supported science and engineering education. I’ve observed that from the age of around six, children are very engaged; they are inventive, dreaming up ideas, and curious, wanting to know how they can be made. But these traits get stamped out of them, partly by the system and partly because the teaching of these subjects in schools has not kept up with the pace of technological change. By creating state of the art spaces I hope that we can foster, inspire and educate more brilliant young minds. I am so pleased Gresham’s will be leading the charge.”
Sir James joined Gresham’s aged nine attending the school from 1956 to 1965. He has consistently acknowledged his gratitude to the school and its then Headmaster, Logie Bruce-Lockhart, for giving him the financial support to continue his education following the untimely death of his father, Alec, who taught Classics at Gresham’s.
Sir James Dyson said, “Both my parents taught at Gresham’s, and my father was head of the Classics department. When he returned from fighting with the 14th Army in Burma during the war, he threw himself into the life of the school, producing plays, taking games, the CCF and the sailing club. When he was ill, he carried on teaching but died when I was nine. The generosity of the school, particularly Logie, meant I could continue there after his death. I am hugely grateful to Gresham’s for the enlightening and inspiring education that I enjoyed so much”
After leaving Gresham’s, Sir James studied at the Royal College of Art. It was during this time that he became interested in the link between engineering and design and has subsequently donated over £100m to engineering education.
Engineering and Science Education
James Dyson has long argued for an increased focus on the teaching of Engineering & Technology in schools. In 2002 the James Dyson Foundation, Dyson’s charitable arm, was established to inspire the next generation of engineers. A recent six-year-long project, with schools across Bath, aimed to prove a new teaching model for Design and Technology (D&T) in schools, with a curriculum based on iterative design, problem-led learning, and the installation of modern industry-grade equipment. All the activities – developed by Dyson engineers – map against the new GCSE subject content, making things easy for teachers. The project brought real-life design engineering into the D&T classroom.
The results showed a 37% increase in the number of students who chose to study D&T at GCSE, and improved correlation between gender and engineering. After the study, students were two and a half times more interested in engineering careers. Notably, teachers felt more confident and reported greater enjoyment of the subject amongst their students.
Beyond schools the James Dyson Foundation has supported a range of institutions including The University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, The Royal College of Art as well as establishing the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology on Dyson’s Malmesbury Campus.