CREST Awards at 30: an inspiring legacy and an exciting future

As a new school year gets underway, the British Science Association (BSA) is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its CREST Awards programme.   

Set up to allow young people the chance to run their own science projects on whatever subject they choose, CREST has gone from strength to strength since the first cohort did their pioneering projects in 1986. From the introduction of the National Curriculum, through numerous changes in government and shifts in education policy, the CREST Awards have continued to grow and thrive, with over 30,000 young people every year now achieving awards.

In total, since the programme’s inception three decades ago, over 400,000 students have been rewarded for their project work.

The anniversary celebrations – taking place throughout this 2016/17 academic year – will include special events and activities.  Speaking at the launch, which took place at the annual STEM in Education evening, held at the British Science Festival, the BSA’s Chief Executive, Katherine Mathieson, said:

“At the British Science Association, we have long believed that the best way to inspire young people in science is for them to have the chance to try it for themselves. Rather than see science as just a collection of facts and equations, our flagship education programme, the CREST Awards, recognises and rewards young peoples’ own investigations in STEM.

“By recognising the value of open-ended project work for all young people, regardless of whether or not they will go on to be scientists, CREST has allowed students to build their skills and demonstrate personal achievements through their own investigative work.

“Enquiry-based learning is something we really encourage, not just because it allows students to get hands-on with science, but also because it seems to inspire a wide range of students at all levels.

“Last year, 51% of our CREST Awardees were girls. And these figures aren’t an anomaly – year-after-year we see an even-gender split on the numbers of completed Awards. We believe that this is because CREST recognises achievements in communication, team work, research and presentation, which appeals to the learning styles of both genders. It gives students an opportunity to complete a science project that takes into account the real world context and the implications beyond their own work.

“We’re excited to be marking this milestone year with a range of celebrations, events and activities – about which more will be revealed in due course.”

30 inspirational ideas

As part of the celebrations for CREST’s 30th anniversary, we have published a new 30 Inspirational ideas teaching resource, which is full of project suggestions, information and activities to help bring science alive in the classroom. It contains submissions from teachers, students and STEM professionals from across the UK, and is a one-stop shop for inspiring ideas and activities. From top-tips for running STEM clubs and CREST projects, to hands-on activity ideas, it has everything an educator will need to put on the most exciting sessions for their students.

Linking with the BSA’s mission of reaching beyond the science community, 30 inspirational ideas also contains ideas linked to the arts and other cultural areas relevant to the curriculum, so is ideal for ‘non-STEM’ teachers to dip into.

You can scroll through or download the 30 Inspirational ideas resource, below.

Enrich your classroom with our new Discovery Day resource

This week also sees the launch of our new CREST linked Enrich my classroom resource produced in partnership with URENCO’s Richie programme. Classrooms have changed hugely over the last 30 years since CREST first began and this new activity encourages young people to envisage what the classrooms of the future might look like, particularly thinking about how science and technology can further enrich their learning experiences in the classroom through creative design.

Open to all: reaching disadvantaged students through the CREST Awards

As we start a new academic year, we’re excited to be looking ahead to new, innovative developments we will be launching to enhance our education programmes at the BSA.  We will be releasing a beta version of a new digital platform for CREST later this autumn.  And we are running a special project to expand the reach of the CREST Awards with disadvantaged students.

In January 2016, we published a report produced by a team of volunteer economists from Pro Bono Economics, which revealed that students who have taken a CREST Silver Award achieved half a grade higher on their best science GCSE result and were more likely to continue with STEM education, compared to a matched control group.

The report also showed that the impact CREST Awards can have is even greater for more disadvantaged students.

  • Silver CREST students eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) saw a larger increase in their best science GCSE (two thirds of a grade) compared to a matched control group who were also eligible for FSM;
  • Students who were eligible for Free School Meals and took part in a CREST Silver Award were 38% more likely to take a STEM subject at AS Level than the matched control group.

Building on our evidence of the significant impact that CREST can have for disadvantaged students, we are now piloting a new initiative to enable and encourage students from all backgrounds to participate in the CREST Awards scheme.  We’re offering schools and colleges funding and support to get involved with CREST for the first time, or to embed CREST more widely in their schools. Up to £600-worth of funding is available, and applications are open until 26 September.