Guest Blog: Engaging schools in disadvantaged areas in STEM E&E activities – a reflection

Guest blogger: Jodie Cole, British Science Association

On the 21st February 2012, the British Science Association hosted this workshop with the overall purpose to share existing approaches and explore new ideas to engage schools in STEM Enhancement & Enrichment initiatives. 

The workshop attracted around 45 people with experience and expertise in widening participation in STEM E&E initiatives (including activity providers, teachers and funders). It benefited from pre-prepared inputs from Sharmila Metcalf (The Nuffield Foundation), Sheila Toper (CREST Local Coordinator), Kevin O’Neill (The Smallpeice Trust), Clare Thomson (Institute of Physics) and Famida Noor Mahomed (Little Ilford School) – all speakers added breadth and detail to the discussions.

Facilitators Susie Fisher and Roger Titford shared their recent research findings on schools who have declined a tailored opportunity to take up CREST Awards (‘Rejector Schools’ PowerPoint Presentation available to download – see below).

A recurring message throughout the discussions was the importance of treating schools as individuals when engaging with them in STEM E&E. There was also a desire for more coordination between STEM E&E providers on the material/help they have for schools, teachers and senior leadership teams.

From the British Science Association’s perspective, the workshop provided an opportunity to disseminate independent research findings from the Department for Education funded CREST Expansion project. The ideas from the discussion also helped to clarify the Association’s thinking on how best to engage with target schools as part of the CREST expansion project in the future.


Workshop attendees were also invited to suggest relevant research on the workshop topic in advance, and a list of useful reports was compiled:

 Note: Most are not specific evaluation reports on engaging schools in disadvantaged areas but do include some relevant findings. Where possible, the main organisation involved has been indicated. This is not intended as a comprehensive list but does provide useful starting points.

CREST Awards independent evaluation and rejector schools research (hard copy provided), British Science Association

 Get Ahead in STEM, The Smallpeice Trust (hard copy provided at the workshop, not available online)

 Girls in Physics, Institute of Physics

An evaluation of the impact of STEMNET’s services on pupils and teachers, STEMNET

Higher take-up of mentoring programme to access HE among disadvantaged pupils, but less interest from boys, Aim Higher Associates and HEFCE

Educating the next generation of scientists, DfE

STEM Cohesion Programme evaluation, DfE

Raising Aspirations (Independent Research), Careers Academies UK

London Engineering Project Evaluation, RAEng

CREST Rejector Schools Presentation:

 About the CREST Awards

CREST is a project-based awards scheme for the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). It links the personal passions of students to curriculum-based learning. CREST can link into work experience placements, after-schools clubs or numerous linked schemes. Students can investigate or design and make, research a subject, or design a science communication project. Last year alone, over 28,000 CREST Awards were undertaken – giving 11-19yr olds opportunities to explore real-world projects in an exciting way.

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