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How we continue to learn after lockdown and into 2021

Published: Sep 30, 2020 4 min read

STEM learning

Remote home learning, business collaborations through Project ENTHUSE, and how STEM Ambassadors are engaging young people living with disadvantage, were all key points of a thought-provoking and animated discussion at our online business breakfast event in September: ‘Emerging from Lockdown – how can we continue to support our schools’.

More than 60 delegates from a wide variety of sectors engaged in discussion with a panel consisting of:

  • Susanna Falcon PhD, Research Scientist, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • Laura Deacon, Head of Science, Pegasus and Orchard Meadow Primary Schools
  • Kerry Baker, Strategic Initiatives Lead, STEM Learning
  • Wayne Jarvis, Senior Educational Lead, STEM Learning.

Susanna Falcon PhD, Research Scientist, Vertex PharmaceuticalsLaura Deacon, Head of Science, Pegasus and Orchard Meadow Primary SchoolsKerry Baker, Strategic Initiatives Lead, STEM LearningWayne Jarvis, Senior Educational Lead, STEM Learning.

The discussion was led by STEM Learning and one of its ENTHUSE Partnerships with Vertex Pharmaceuticals, looking at how they have adapted the way learning is delivered and the challenges to be faced in the future. 

To meet some of the challenges faced by schools, STEM Learning has adapted its offer and introduced a range of remote continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers and facilitators.  This has been incredibly popular with over 5,500 primary and secondary teachers taking part, allowing them to continue their development - even during school closures. Many of these teachers have never engaged with STEM Learning before.

Research shows face-to-face CPD still has the greatest impact on teacher retention and student progression, but for those unable to take part in these sessions, remote learning is an effective way to support the profession, especially with the ongoing challenges faced by schools.

A major part of the conversation was around the importance of support from business and other partners for schools which delivers many benefits including sustainability of activities and greater reach - especially if young people continue to experience disruption with their learning. 

Many approaches have been adapted including STEM Ambassadors delivering activities remotely and linking to classrooms through virtual sessions to allow young people to continue to engage with them.  A great example of direct face to face support for young people was the summer schools programme helping disadvantaged young people in Harlow catch up on lost learning time. This was delivered through a partnership between the RAF, Harlow Education Consortium and the Local Science Learning Partnership (SLP).

Vertex Pharmaceuticals – a key ENTHUSE Partnership sponsor - also shared some examples of the work they are doing to support schools and teachers going forward into 2021.

In addition to sponsoring schools in disadvantaged areas in Oxfordshire, Susanna highlighted the work of their STEM Ambassadors and the creation of a new Learning Lab in Abingdon. This is due to open for school visits at the end of the year and they are exploring the delivery of virtual tours and sessions too.  

This connection of Vertex STEM Ambassadors to young people via workshops and assemblies in schools via the ENTHUSE Partnership has had a positive impact on the local Oxfordshire schools and community and in particular on the schools lead on this project, Laura Deacon.

Laura highlighted her passion for science and belief that stem subjects were key to increasing social mobility.  She explained how the CPD she had taken part in, and the workshop, ‘Extracting DNA from Strawberries’, run by STEM Ambassadors from Vertex, has impacted on the young people she taught at her primary school. Both these activities were made possible thanks to the support from Vertex.  Following the workshop 90% of the young people who took part said that their favorite subject in school was now science and that they wanted to become a scientist when they were older!

Working in collaboration with business

Nobody can accurately predict the future landscape for schools with the uncertainty generated by COVID-19. However, what was very clear in the discussion was the need to continue to collaborate and actively support schools through imaginative outreach activities, harnessing the power of STEM Ambassadors and exploring the benefits of the ENTHUSE Programme. That way, we can all play our part in engaging and inspiring our young people - securing the future STEM workforce.

If you are an employer that has been inspired by our recent business breakfast discussion and share our mission of a world-leading STEM education for every young person in the UK, whatever their background, please contact our employers team.