Science and Technology Facilities Council
New study shows passion for science among disadvantaged pupils
STFC and University of Central Lancashire share findings of a project to improve student engagement with science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
It’s long been acknowledged that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.
Now, research conducted by The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) sheds new light on the causes of this problem and points to innovative solutions.
The Blackpool Physics: Inspire, Engage, Research (PIER) project found that primary school children from low socio-economic areas are just as interested in science but lack knowledge about possible science careers.
Demonstrating the value of science
The project is following a cohort of pupils as they progress from Year 6 to Year 9, using surveys, interviews and other assessments to gauge interest in science.
These initial findings suggest that attempts to increase science participation among young people should not simply promote the subject as ‘fun’ or ‘interesting’.
Instead, greater impact could be achieved by demonstrating clearly how science can open possible future career opportunities.
Promoting science-related careers
Many of the pupils taking part in the study understood that studying science could be useful but few could explain why, suggesting a need for greater education about STEM careers.
As well as broadening our understanding of the issue, the PIER project is tackling the problem head on.
The team has conducted various activities each year for the PIER participants, including ‘meet the scientists’ events, trips to UCLan’s Alston Observatory as well as family science events at school.
Lead Researcher and STFC Fellow in Public Engagement, Professor Robert Walsh, yesterday said:
Much government policy towards boosting science in higher education focuses on an assumed lack of interest and desire in low-socioeconomic groups.
However, the enthusiasm is already there and this ‘hidden science identity’ needs to be revealed and translated into real-life prospects for these young people.
We’re recommending that programmes instead allow young people to explore their science identity more fully and provide innovative ways to discover the jobs that studying science may lead to.
The paper, A space to study: expectations and aspirations toward science among a low-participation cohort, is available to download on the JCOM website.
Latest News from
Science and Technology Facilities Council
UKRI secures £8 million to help decarbonise its estate03/03/2021 13:05:00
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has been awarded £8 million to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions at its facilities.
New facility launched to develop new cancer treatments01/03/2021 13:05:00
The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)’s Daresbury Laboratory is strengthening its support for the medical device industry with a new facility.
Tackling big data challenges for next-generation experiments23/02/2021 13:05:00
Scientists are developing vital software to exploit the large data sets collected by the next-generation experiments in high energy physics (HEP).
£10m research centre to spur a greener global financial system16/02/2021 13:05:00
The UK is investing £10 million in a new national green finance research centre that will advise lenders, investors and insurers.
New world record for UK-built laser technology15/02/2021 16:25:00
A laser developed by Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) scientists at the UK’s Central Laser Facility (CLF) has set a new world record.
UK scientists build core components of global neutrino experiment09/02/2021 13:05:00
Engineers and technicians in the North West have started production of a key piece of equipment for a major international science experiment.
Luggage-sized camera to take pictures of exoplanets03/02/2021 13:05:00
NIX – a powerful new ‘luggage-sized’ cryogenic camera, will take the first pictures of young giant exoplanets.
Star-spotting science used to spot cancerous cells02/02/2021 08:20:00
UK scientists have used techniques to address real-world problems, with impacts ranging from catching early signs of cancerous moles to potentially saving lives in future natural disasters.