Amy Jackson is a Chemistry teacher at Bury Church High School in Manchester. She has been teaching for three years and likes to encourage students of all abilities to engage with her subject.
This year she decided to start CREST Awards in school, adding recognition to the work her science club do after school and learning to work with other teachers across the school’s STEM departments.
Last year I was trawling the web for ideas for our science after school club when I stumbled across the CREST website . As a recently qualified teacher I wasn’t very familiar with all the schemes and options available for extra-curricular science. It struck me as a great way to recognise the achievements of pupils who engage in science enrichment activities. Our Head is keen to introduce and support extra-curricular activities and I wanted it to be a voluntary activity where pupils can investigate an area that interests them personally.
CREST Awards appear on the school website  but the benefits go well beyond that. Since the scheme has been brought in, pupils have become more enthusiastic about science and there has been a greater uptake in our other extra-curricular activities. This has not only affected the pupils directly involved but those who have been brought in to complete studies – like our tea-tasting volunteers! – and others, that have heard about it around the building. I offer the scheme to year nine pupils and after the buzz it has caused, the year eights can’t wait to take part!
We have faced some challenges in the setup of the scheme. The first was project choice; pupils often came with an idea of an area they wanted to study but no clear hypothesis. The CREST website  was very helpful here, as pupils were able to pick from the bank of projects or use them to develop their own. Funding is another concern when setting up something new, but thankfully we have very supportive PTA who offered their help to the school and allowed all of our projects to run. If this had not been the case we would have still been able to run many of our projects, as investigations like “Do people work better with music on?” went ahead with minimal or no cost implications.
Reflecting on the scheme I think it has been a success this year. The administration process is incredibly straightforward – with only two documents to send for a Bronze Award! To improve the process next year I will be putting more pressure on the pupils to complete the award document as they go along. I found our pupils so eager to get to their conclusions that they wanted to jump ahead.
We have been fortunate enough to take some of our projects to the regional heats of the National Science + Engineering Competition  at a Big Bang Near Me Fair. The pupils loved talking to the judges and showing their work. It gave a real sense of accomplishment and I would recommend it to all. We have used school assemblies to show some of our work, and to give out the certificates and congratulate the pupils, which has been a great way to celebrate the achievements and once again raise the profile of science in school.
Next year I will be taking a new batch of pupils with new projects to develop. I will visit an assembly in September with some of this year’s pupils to introduce the scheme and start discussions on projects. I am also hoping to take some of the pupils who have completed Bronze and see if we can develop it further for Silver! This may involve contacting local companies or STEM Ambassadors  for support and guidance but I hope it will be a success.
Below I've included some of the thoughts from my students:
“I have gained skills in engineering, practical maths skills and in data handling”
“I have enjoyed completing exciting experiments and presenting my project in the National Science + Engineering Competition in Liverpool. It also gave me the opportunity to look at other peoples work”
“I have enjoyed working with lots of different people”
“I really enjoyed the practical part, like using the different gas to create a new atmosphere”
“I have enjoyed choosing my own experiment and finding out the results”