A teacher running the Mayor’s London Scientist programme says the benefits of the scheme for her students have extended well beyond academic achievement alone.

The programme, launched in January 2018, funds primary and secondary schools in London serving students that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to enable them to run CREST Awards for free. Since its launch, thousands of primary and secondary school students who would have otherwise been overlooked have run a STEM project of their own and subsequently secured free CREST Awards as part of the wider Mayor’s London Scientist offering.

The scheme also encompasses other services such as experience days, which give students an insight into the reality of the STEM sector.

Famida Noor Mahomed (left), a science teacher at Frederick Bremner School, took part in the scheme this year, resulting in 90 of her students aged 11-15 achieving CREST Awards.

She says the CREST Awards are a fantastic way to inspire students of all abilities with project-based learning.

“As an individual who has launched and worked on Bronze CREST Awards before, I’ve got satisfied students who are producing work they wouldn’t expect themselves to normally achieve.

“CREST is accessible and that’s the thing I’m most proud of.”

The funding covers state schools in Greater London that match at least one of the following criteria:

1. Over 30% of pupils receive pupil premium funding

2. Over 75% of pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds

3. Pupil referral or alternative provision unit

4. SEND school 

The Mayor’s London Scientist programme opened new pathways for students who had traditionally distanced themselves from entering the sciences beyond high school, she says.

Having something flexible had proven to be incredibly beneficial for Famida, who was shielding during the first wave of COVID-19 and had to launch the CREST Awards virtually.

While most teachers can opt to run CREST projects in STEM-specific lessons or STEM clubs over a certain number of days, Famida chose to run them as cross-curriculum projects to allow creativity, productivity and quality.

She says the students had some incredible ideas that extended beyond the sciences.

“One group is looking at the local incinerator, another group is looking at the energy the school is using.

“We’ve got groups looking at things that are more personal to them – the ecosystem around their own lives. It’s generating open mindedness and the projects are making the students tired of the norm.”

Another surprising benefit of the programme, she says, is the connection students forge with local leaders and the pride they feel in being associated with policymakers and change agents.

“Students can go away and say, ‘I’m working on this and my project might be seen by the Mayor’.

“To them, thinking in their heads that the Mayor might hear their ideas and take them on is huge and something they feel is worth walking with an extra spring in their step about.”

You can learn more about the Mayor’s London Scientist programme by visiting the CREST website.