The National Science Learning Network celebrates 10 years of supporting science education

The National Science Learning Network has today released a report “Lessons in Excellent Science Education” which shows the significant impact that the Network has had on teaching of science and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects across the UK.

This year, 2015, marks ten years since the National Science Learning Centre first opened its doors in York in response to concerns in government and learning societies about the standards of science teaching and the implications this had for the UK economy. Since then the Centre, and its network of Science Learning Partnerships, has worked with 15,000 teachers and technicians year on year to improve their confidence and competence in teaching science. Over seven million children have been affected by their work—the report shows how improved teaching leads to better grades, greater engagement in STEM subjects and more pupils choosing to continue to study and work in STEM fields.

Teachers participating in Network professional development reported the following based on their experience:

  • 94% of teachers report positive impacts of their CPD on their own knowledge, skills, practice and confidence
  • 86% of teachers confirm the impact their CPD has had on pupils, including better engagement, increased motivation to study science and improved progress and attainment

Commenting on the importance of high quality professional development to support all STEM teachers, Sir Michael Griffiths, former head of Northampton School for Boys and former president of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Let us ensure that all teachers are given the opportunity to develop into outstanding practitioners. The National Science Learning Network aims to improve training across the country. They have rigorous quality-assurance to make sure that the training has impact on students, not just on teachers. At a time when school budgets are under pressure, it is vital that professional development is seen as an entitlement for all teachers, not just a “bolt-on extra.”

The new report outlines five key lessons that the Network has learned from a decade of supporting STEM teachers, and summarises evaluative evidence of the impact of the professional development delivered by the organisation.

The five lessons are:

  • sustained engagement of schools and colleges with Network support is associated with improved teaching and learning, and increased uptake and achievement in science
  • Network professional development improves teachers’ subject and pedagogical knowledge, skills and confidence, resulting in better outcomes for young people
  • the Network develops strong leadership in science – from primary to post-16 – benefitting teachers, schools and young people
  • engagement with the Network helps schools and colleges recruit and retain excellent teachers
  • Network professional development enriches teaching, supporting young people’s engagement, progression and awareness of STEM careers

Yvonne Baker, Chief Executive Officer for the National Science Learning Network said: “I am proud that our unique and rigorous approach to professional development has been validated through extensive evaluation and independent research evidence. Together with teachers, school and college leaders, policymakers, funders, employers and others, we can build on these lessons to achieve our vision of a world-leading STEM education for all young people across the UK.”

The work of the National Science Learning Network is made possible through Project ENTHUSE—an unique collaboration of government, charities, learned bodies and employers all committed to improving science teaching through the continuing professional development of teachers and technicians throughout the UK. Project ENTHUSE partners are: the Wellcome Trust, the Department for Education, BAE Systems, BP, the Institution of Engineering andTechnology, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Rolls-Royce, the Biochemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Hilary Leevers, Head of Education and Learning for the Wellcome Trust commented: “The Wellcome Trust renewed its £10 million investment in Project ENTHUSE in 2013 because we believe it drives improvements in student achievement and progression in science. A thorough review of the evidence found that ENTHUSE-funded professional development is outstanding, and should be an intrinsic part of all teachers’ careers.” 

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