Last month, we held the third annual online Engage Teacher Network Conference (formerly the Underrepresented Audiences Conference). This event is part of the wider programme of support that the British Science Association (BSA) is proud to offer, to help schools in challenging circumstances engage their students with STEM*.

The BSA has a network of over 1500 teachers working with students underrepresented in STEM; young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, from ethnic minority backgrounds, attending schools in rural areas and those with special educational needs.

The free conference brought education staff together to share and discover best practices from across the network, hear about new CREST resources, receive top tips for successful grant applications, and learn about exciting initiatives and education resources available from other organisations that support schools.

Don’t worry if you missed it, all ten sessions were recorded and are available to watch here. They’re well worth a look. 

Maria Rossini, Head of Education at the BSA, delivered an engaging session on maintaining the momentum of British Science Week to continue to make science relevant to your students. One of our attendees said: 

“I really enjoyed it - I found out about organisations I hadn’t heard about before. It also was great timing as it made think about how to ensure that there is a build up to British Science Week and sustained impact over the rest of the year.”

And don’t miss the sessions with top tips specifically for applying to the Kick Start grants or CREST grants for schools – applications open again in the Autumn term!

Sharing best practice

We think that the experts in engaging young people in STEM, and raising the profile of STEM in school are the teachers who are doing it effectively themselves. That’s why we prioritised hearing from teachers in the network about how they are making the most of the support from the BSA to impact their students. If you are looking to boost your own teaching next year, then these sessions are for you.

Nasrin Ahmed shared the benefit of her experience of taking part in four British Science Weeks at Yew Tree Community School, focusing on accessibility: “We want to make sure it’s accessible – everything that we do in science is engaging, is kinesthetic, and children are excited by it.”. They ran school-wide themed projects, daily investigations, had VIP STEM visitors from the community and the hugely popular joint pupil-parent workshops. 

Matt Howells shared highlights of cross-curricular approaches used at his school, Ysgol-Y-Graig, monitoring air pollution and local road development, planting a dinosaur garden and using VR headsets to learn about animals and their habitats.

Our British Science Week Kick Start Grant helped Rachael Fearnley and her school, Preston Primary School, to run a stimulating Science, Art and Writing Day during British Science Week 2023, with visiting scientists, artists and writers, which made a keen impact on the young participants.

With a similar cross-curricular approach, you could also see how the BSA’s CREST Grant scheme has supported Alison Brien to run Barlow Hall Primary School’s successful Science CREST Club for six years, with weekly guest leaders and real-life science explorations in baking, gardening, to name a few!

Supporting young people with additional needs

This year’s conference had a number of sessions focused on supporting young people with additional needs.

Rob Butler from the Association for Science Education (ASE) spoke about making resources more accessible for pupils with additional needs, sharing straightforward guidance on making adaptations to approach and materials, and the important insight that “anything we do with the intention of making resources better for SEND learners will actually make them better for everybody.”

Jane Hauton also shared what British Science Week 2023 was like for pupils at Nether Hall School, a special school; inspired by and supported by their extensive outdoor learning space. 

Similarly, Scott Archibald focused on delivering CREST for secondary students with additional needs at The Pilgrim School, a hospital school. He had a wealth of great ideas from his experience overseeing two CREST Discovery Days and a Bronze CREST Award.  Rockets, skateboards, bath bombs, and the perfect cup of tea all feature!

For attendees unfamiliar with the CREST Awards, Caitlin Brown, an Education Manager at the BSA, provided an introduction to the BSA’s flagship education scheme that supports young people to undertake real-world projects in practical science.  She also demonstrated how an existing CREST resource – ‘Design and make a pizza box’ - has been redeveloped to better support students with SEND. You can find it, and an abundance of other free resources, in the CREST resource library.

Other opportunities for STEM in schools

We welcomed to the conference other organisations who offer innovative resources and experiences to schools and young people, to encourage them to engage more with STEM, so schools in our network could take advantage of opportunities that best suited them. The Engineering Development Trust (EDT) introduced attendees to their Industrial Cadets programme, which connects young people with industry. STEM Learning and the Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) also provided comprehensive overviews of the schemes and resources available via their organisations to support schools to deliver world class science and STEM education at both primary and secondary levels. Kindred2 gave a fascinating overview of the SEEN Programme which provides lesson resources to teach early brain development for secondary school students.

The Education Endowment Fund’s (EEF) Katie Luxton gave the group a sneak peek of the Primary Science Guidance Report, which is due to be published later this year.  The EEF’s Guidance Reports summarise the best available research and are a great resource for schools to critically reflect on practice.

We’d like to extend our thanks to all who attended and contributed to the Engage Teacher Network Conference this year and helped support a future where science is more relevant, representative, and connected to society.    

If you teach in a school in challenging circumstances, join our network to hear about events, opportunities and resources for schools like yours. Register your interest in the network here.

*STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and maths

Watch the conference recordings