by Helen Roberts, Project Manager at School Gate SET,


We all want the best education for our children, but working out how to use our skills to help at school isn’t always easy. As parents we may be asked to listen to readers or to run a stall at the school fete; but what about supporting maths lessons? Or running an after-school science club? Is there an untapped resource of parents with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills that could be extremely valuable to schools, if only the parents knew what to offer and the schools knew how to ask? 

The School Gate SET is a community which promotes exactly this. It was founded by Kate Bellingham, STEM ambassador and former Tomorrow’s World presenter. When Kate’s first child started at Primary School, she was working part-time and began to help out on school outings and by listening to readers. Kate felt this wasn’t best use of her skills, and offered to help with Maths and later asked if she could run an after-school STEM Club for the older children.  The club eventually ran for 7 terms and children and parents who were involved still talk about it fondly several years on!

Above: Kate Bellingham at Abbot's Hill Primary School

We have also been inspired by stories like that of Diane Aston, who leads education activities at the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining and is now also a parent governor at her children’s primary school; and by these parents who started a CodeClub because they wanted to learn with their children. They are now running workshops for parents and teachers.

Last week we had a lovely success story - a school sent out information about the School Gate SET and brought together a parent and teacher. At the end of the meeting, the conversation went like this:

Kate Bellingham to Teacher: “Did you realise that a reception class Mum worked in Forensic Science?”

Teacher: “I had no idea until we sent out the School Gate SET email.”

Kate to Mum: “Would you have thought of offering to help in the school?”

Mum: “I thought I might later, but not as a reception Mum.  Now I’m really interested in how I run an activity for the older kids in science week.”

We believe there are women, perhaps currently working part-time or on a career break, who self-identify as ‘parent’ rather than as a scientist, technologist or engineer They are not being reached by existing campaigns such as STEM Ambassadors but could become an “embedded Ambassador” in their child’s school. Our online community and experienced mentors can support them in doing this.

We have many ideas for how our embedded Ambassadors can help, but initially we are encouraging them to “dip a toe in the water” by organising or supporting an activity for British Science Week in March. We hope this will inspire pupils and give parents the confidence to get involved with STEM education on a regular basis. As these parents are still, predominantly, Mums, maybe we can challenge a few stereotypes along the way!

Find out more about School Gate SET and British Science Week