Evaluation of the STEM Pathfinder Programme

An evaluation, published in October 2009,  of the STEM Pathfinder programme was carried out by NFER on behalf of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), and draws on evidence gathered from twenty-nine of the participating forty schools.

The evaluation sought to provide findings on the effectiveness of different activities and approaches to delivering STEM; a clear understanding of the impact of activities; a set of recommendations and learning points that would inform longer-term developments, including a possible STEM specialism.

The methodology for the evaluation comprised: qualitative baseline and end-point surveys completed by twenty-nine of the forty participating schools; five school case studies; the collation of secondary data (e.g. school action plans, progress reports).

Key findings:

* Integrated STEM activities can lead to significant benefits for pupils, teachers, schools and the wider community. There was evidence that successful activities were underpinned by certain characteristics relating to the school, the planning of activities, and the activities themselves.

* Whilst some of the benefits can arguably also be achieved through innovative activities in individual STEM subjects (e.g. increased interest in a subject; development of skills such as independent learning), there are some benefits that are achieved only through the integration of STEM subjects in the curriculum and in enrichment activities (e.g. understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of many STEM careers and the combined application of STEM subjects in 'real-world' situations).

* There is potential value in all schools delivering integrated STEM activities, as benefits occur when such activities are delivered as part of another existing specialism (i.e. as has been seen through the pathfinder evaluation). However, there could be more benefit if such activities and approaches are developed further through a STEM specialism, and therefore SSAT/DCSF should pursue the idea of a STEM specialism.

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