Our Kick Start grants and CREST grants are awarded to schools to help them reach students who are from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM. This includes children from ethnic minorities, children supported by pupil premium, children attending schools located in rural areas and children with Special Educational Needs. The grant funding also aims to help engage children who see science as ‘not for me’ or are less likely to choose science activities when given the chance to opt-in.

It is really important to us that our CREST Awards and British Science Week programmes are inclusive and accessible to all young people. We are working with teachers in our underrepresented audiences teacher network to further develop our programmes and resources.

Goose Green Primary School in Southwark is one of our grant recipients which has a high percentage of pupil premium children (47.8%). It is a diverse school with children from middle class, working class and some refugee families. We spoke to Monique Darrell, their Science Lead and Year 5 teacher, to find out what strategies the school is using to ensure their pupils feel included and they are celebrating diversity within their science lessons. Here are her tips:

1. Start by acknowledging some of the barriers to engagement including unconscious bias.

Monique says: “I think when you talk to children and you talk to parents, and even as teachers sometimes, we do have our unconscious bias and we just go straight to the image of that scientist you’ve always seen. And you have to kind of check yourself and go well, actually, no, there are other examples out there. As a school we’ve been doing a lot of work on unconscious bias, so you have to think back and go actually there are other people.”

2. It’s also important to make sure everyone is aware of this, including teachers, support staff and even visitors to the school who might be supporting children’s learning.

“When we have visitors come in, we direct them down those routes so that they can see that science is for everyone.”

3. Look at your curriculum content and ensure children see a wide variety of content.

One way to redress the balance is through curriculum development. Monique says:

“One of the famous scientists, Marie Curie, is often forgotten about or we probably think of someone else first. But she was a scientist too, why don’t we talk about her?

“The same applies for scientists who are disabled as well. Someone like the late Professor Hawking, for example. Despite his physical limitations, he had a very powerful brain and was still able achieve so much in the world of science.

“So little by little, we’re trying as much as possible to ensure that our children see a wide variety, in our teaching, and we direct them down those routes so that they can see that science is for everyone.”

4. Make use of volunteers and role models. Particularly people in the local community such as parents or other family members.

When children hear messages from people like them in the community or from family members it can have more impact. Particularly when it comes to science and maths which are often referred to as ‘not for me’. Monique says:

“Most engagement with science for our children is due to our teaching in class, but then opening it up to parents and volunteers who have that specialism or that enjoyment of science, and getting them involved by helping us to engage our children or asking them to run a club – that really helps. So, it’s not just coming from us as a school, there’s that community involvement as well.”

5. Don’t just focus on one off cultural events during the year like British Science Week or Black History Month. Keep referring back to these events to embed them into ongoing classroom learning, helping children to link to everyday experiences.

“…weeks later you’d ask them about these questions, about that event and they could remember and then they started to relate it to things they’d seen in their own lives, in their own little bubbles, and it was just nice for them to connect the dots; ‘Oh well, I’m using this force to do this’ and you’d think ah it’s stuck! And that was just so wonderful to see, and I’m hoping that we’ll have similar success this year.”

6. Have high expectations of all children.

It is often hard to overcome our unconscious bias which might cause us to have preconceived expectations about a child’s interests or their abilities. It might also put you off trying out a different way of teaching something in case it doesn’t work. Monique advises having high expectations and building on children’s own knowledge and experiences.

“I’d say don’t limit yourself at all, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what your children know, what they will tell you, the responses they give.”

7. Make use of the wider community to create a more tailored experience which can better meet the needs of the children in your school. Tap into parents and the local community for expertise they can share with the children. Celebrate the science that is happening in children’s own homes and lives rather than focusing on off the shelf workshops.

“If you can’t get someone on the list, as it were, to come in and run a workshop, tap into your parents. There’s bound to be somebody, it might not necessarily be a parent who is a scientist, or works in those fields, but they’ll probably know someone who’s willing to come in. Look to your community as well, and say right, we’re sending out the word, is there someone who works in this particular field, or is there someone who’s absolutely brilliant with plants, would you like to come in and help us?”

And finally…

8. Be brave in asking for help and support for events and projects at school.

Monique say: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get. You know, going to your local businesses and asking if they’re willing to help or donate and most places love to do it.”