Sixth form students inspire younger peers to get into science

Published: 21 Mar 2017

Sixth form students have inspired their younger peers to get excited about science and its future career prospects by organising and leading projects as part of Villiers Park Educational Trust’s INVOLVE initiative.

During British Science Week, Scholars on Villiers Park’s Swindon and Bedford/Peterborough 2020 STEM Scholars Programmes organised practical experiments and visiting speakers to spark the curiosity of younger students and demonstrate how science is used in numerous different careers.

Experiments and sessions included extracting DNA from a banana, fruit batteries, making homemade bouncy balls and pH testing of various liquids.

[British Science Week at Mark Rutherford School]

At Mark Rutherford School in Bedford sixth formers led a series of experiments for thirty Year 4 pupils from Great Barford and Ravensden Lower Schools. Tracy Jakins, Science Teacher at Mark Rutherford, said, “This was a first for us – we’ve never held an event like this before where lower schools have come to us and the sixth form have been so active in taking the lead. It was brilliant”.

Not only have younger students had a chance to engage in practical experiments but they have also heard from guest speakers about the range of careers available within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). At Sir Harry Smith Community College in Peterborough, engineer Will Reece impressed students by discussing his experience as a Particle Physics Researcher at CERN and his role in the discovery of the Higgs boson.

One student was extremely enthusiastic after taking part in a session for Year 8 girls led by sixth formers at Lydiard Park Academy in Swindon, she said, “I would rate this 100/10. Best two hours of science ever, so fun and inspiring. Science is awesome!” As a result of the session the school are now keen to start a STEM club to promote science further.

[Kate Rayment, Villiers Park Scholar and Year 13 student conducting an experiment]

Kate Rayment, who led the experiment said, “I hope that after our session more students will consider careers within the science industry and we minimise the skill shortage that is set to become a problem in the not too distant future”.

By 2020 the UK will require 830,000 professional scientists, engineers and technologists* which is well above the current output of UK graduate scientists. Supporting young people to develop a passion for STEM at a young age is a proven way of ensuring we achieve this figure as well as ensuring diversity within the industry, (both economic and gender), with women currently accounting for only 12.8% of the STEM workforce.**

By demonstrating to their younger peers the role that science plays in our daily lives and generating a positive culture of engaging in STEM, the sixth formers’ have achieved what they set out to do. As one student’s feedback sums up, “I learnt that science is more than just chemical equations”.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

*http://www.raeng.org.uk/publications/reports/jobs-and-growth

**https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2015/jun/13/how-well-are-women-represented-in-uk-science

  1. Villiers Park Educational Trust is a registered charity with over 50 years of experience – empowering young people to fulfil their potential by helping them develop a passion for learning and raising their aspirations.  The charity is committed to fair access – enabling students from low-income backgrounds to gain places at leading universities and to thrive once there. Villiers Park INVOLVE empowers students to enrich the learning community in their schools by leading exciting educational projects among their peers. The Trust’s Scholars Programme is a four year comprehensive programme of support for students between Years 10 and 13 which works in seven areas across the UK. This includes the Swindon Scholars Programme (generously supported by Trinity College Cambridge) and the 2020 STEM Scholars Programme based in Bedford/Peterborough and generously sponsored by ARM Holdings plc.
  1. British Science Week (10-19 March 2017) is a ten-day celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths – featuring fascinating, entertaining and engaging events and activities across the UK for people of all ages.
  2. For further information please contact Catherine Jones, Communications Officer, Villiers Park Educational Trust on cj@villierspark.org.uk or 01223 872601.