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View from the classroom

What other initiatives are you involved in to engage pupils in the topic of STEM? We have been celebrating British Science Week (11-20 March) and we are running quizzes for lower year groups to raise awareness of some of the amazing research that scientists have been involved in. This is a fun way to engage pupils at an early age so that they are learning without realising. There was a similar event last year for Pi Day which was a brilliant way of getting all staff and pupils involved, and the discussions that it prompted at break and lunch were fantastic. We also take pupils to The Big Bang Science

fair which is always very enjoyable as well as educational. Each year we run a “Stretch and Challenge” Science Club for Y9 pupils, where we allow them to carry out experiments and investigations that are not part of the curriculum. We encourage these pupils to design their own investigations and research methods and techniques which we can risk assess together before carrying out. The DT department works on Product Design

and there are close links with the Science department so that girls who are interested in Engineering are given the best careers advice and gain valuable work experience to help them progress onto the undergraduate course of their choice. Last year one of our sixth form was assisted by both the Physics and DT staff to help get a scholarship for her undergraduate engineering course.

What impact do you think an all-girls environment has had on the teaching of STEM subjects at your school? An all-girls environment has really supported us in ensuring our pupils do not view STEM subjects as a male dominated area of work. When no one ever places limits on what a pupil is capable of, it will never occur to that pupil to limit themselves, and this is definitely what we have found. Our A Level groups in all STEM subjects are thriving. This year we have fifty-five girls studying Biology A Level. In Chemistry there are 48 girls studying A Level, and in Physics there are 12 girls studying A Level. Numbers in other STEM subject areas are also

strong, with 36 Maths A Level students, and 18 DT A Level students. In Computer Science which is our newest STEM subject area, a small group have begun A Level, and a larger group of Y10 students have begun GCSE Computer Science

which is a great start and we have high hopes for many of these to take the subject at A Level in two years’ time.

Are pupils taking the learning of STEM in to their own hands? We have run CREST awards in our old school site and are hoping to continue with this in our new building later this year, especially with the Y9 Stretch and Challenge club. The sixth form are encouraged to take on

investigative work in the form of an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) which allows them the scope to conduct research and experimental work of their own choice under the supervision and guidance of the Science department.

How does your school promote STEM careers? We have an excellent record of getting our sixth form places on the Nuffield Bursary Scheme each year, and this has given our Year 12 fantastic experience working in research and presenting their findings over the summer before beginning their UCAS applications. Even for those who are unsuccessful in gaining a place have found the application experience valuable in preparing them for UCAS.

In addition to this, Archbishop Blanch School is

part of the University of Liverpool Scholars Programme which helps sixth form students in a variety of subject areas to gain experience of their undergraduate courses before applying. Each year our Y12 Chemists take part in the

University of Liverpool “Young Analyst” competition which takes place in the university laboratories on a Saturday in March and enables them to compete against students from other sixth forms using skills that they have developed in class. Some of the STEM careers talk presenters have

been our ex-pupils who are currently at university, and this has led to an informal mentoring scheme whereby current pupils are able to contact ex- pupils to gain extra information about the range of university courses, entry requirements, work placements and the application process in general.

There is a movement called ‘STEAM’ which looks to embed art and culture within STEM – do you think this is important? I think encouraging participation in STEM through embedding art is a great idea, we promote varied lessons which make students ‘think outside the box’. We encourage pupils to compete to perform the “Periodic Table” song, or develop a rap to help them revise topics. We have animated mitosis and meiosis using modelling clay and film this using iPads and stop-start animation. The subject can fill some students with dread

but the embedding of art makes it more vibrant and keeps it relevant for the students who would otherwise be disengaged. Also, the relevance of developments in culture alongside developments in scientific discovery ensures pupils appreciate the historical nature of some breakthroughs.

In summary, how would you describe the impact the STEM focus has had on your pupils? It encourages pupils to be aspirational about their potential for the future in a wide variety of spheres. It broadens their horizons and gives a purpose to the curriculum content covered in class. Most of all I hope that the work we do teaches our pupils to ask questions of the world around them.

April 2016 21

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