News roundup from National Science Learning Network and the National STEM Centre | Autumn 2015

Now we are into the Autumn school term, we can look back on a busy and productive summer period for the National Science Learning Network, the National STEM Centre and Project ENTHUSE. Our recent impact report was very well-received and shows how the work we have done over the past ten years, supported by our valuable network of government partners, funders and supporters, leads to great STEM teaching and learning, and improves outcomes for teachers, support staff, schools and the young people they teach.

Here is our news roundup for July, August and September:

National Science Learning Network

Impact report showcases ten years of impact on teachers, students and schools

Over 70 key stakeholders from education, STEM organisations, government and industry attended the launch event for our impact report “Lessons in Excellent Science Education” which presents evidence of positive impact on teachers, students and schools over the past ten years of operation for the National Science Learning Network. The event also featured a video of testimonials from teachers and students about their experiences with the Network, and a lively panel discussion chaired by Lord Jim Knight, former Schools Minister and education adviser to the TES.  

CPD Impact Toolkit now available online 

The Impact Toolkit is a cornerstone of the Network’s embedded evaluation approach and allows us to constantly evaluate and improve our continuing professional development (CPD) offering. The Toolkit includes an action plan for teachers to fill out before they engage with CPD, and forms for recording impacts in the period following their engagement. To support the high quality of the professional development offered by the Network, our CPD Impact Toolkit is now enabled for use online across all of our courses, both national and regional. The Toolkit can be also be accessed via mobile devices.  

Secondary Science Mark rolled out to schools 

We continue to move ahead with our secondary Science Mark following the successful conclusion of the initial pilot. Five out of eight pilot secondary schools attained the Science Mark: four of them gaining Gold status. The schools involved so far commented that the success criteria for the Science Mark was robust and aspirational, and that the process helped their science departments to develop more effectively. A wider launch to secondary schools is now underway which will include videos to explain the route for schools to attain the Science Mark. Marketing materials are due to go into schools later this Autumn term.  

New marketing initiatives this Autumn

Our new look STEM Learning magazines are currently reaching schools for the first time. All magazines include expert opinion pieces on a range of STEM subjects and a full list of CPD activities with the National Science Learning Network and National STEM Centre. First off the press was Secondary STEM Learning magazine which gives secondary educators a behind the scenes look into CERN, showcases exciting resources on British astronaut Tim Peake, and provides tips on how to give students the best possible career advice. The subsequent Primary STEM Learning magazine offers primary teachers a feature on spooky STEM activities to do for Halloween, advice on incorporating science into mathematics and English lessons, and a highlight on Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station in December 2015. The Post-16 and FE magazine will be next to reach schools. Articles include a look inside the Swiss time machine at CERN, unlocking technicians' potential, giving the best career advice and examining the gulf between secondary and post-16. We are also working hard on an exciting new website for the start of 2016 which will pull together the different sites managed by National Science Learning Centre and greatly improve our user experience – watch this space!

Teacher Survey 

We recently surveyed over 1,100 STEM teachers to gather more information on their working lives, and their CPD needs.

We found that overall teachers in the survey love teaching and being in the classroom, but are being negatively affected by high workload and unrealistic expectations. While a large proportion of the teachers (61%) stated that they are considering leaving teaching, the subset that engage with regular CPD are shown to be much happier in their jobs and less likely to want to change careers.

STEM Learning’s key report on major European school/industry collaboration study is now available

STEM Learning is pleased to release a targeted report detailing best practices for schools, STEM employers and other stakeholders to increase meaningful links between science education and STEM careers. The report is based on findings from the pan-European InGenious project, a wide-ranging and rigorous study which worked for three years with schools from 26 countries across Europe. The study trialled a range of industry interventions in schools to see which had the most impact on students awareness and interest in pursuing STEM careers. STEM Learning (Myscience) played a pivotal role in the study evaluation. Summaries of the report are available to download via the following links:

For STEM employers: Increasing young people’s involvement in STEM careers

For policymakers: How can classroom teaching be improved to enhance students’ learning of STEM subjects and improve the uptake of STEM careers?

National Science Learning Centre/Project ENTHUSE

Latest Project ENTHUSE report shows positive feedback from teachers 

The analysis from our CPD Impact Toolkit is now complete for the last academic year. This shows that professional development provided by the National Science Learning Centre continues to make an outstanding impact with over 99% of teachers and technicians reporting positive effects on themselves, 91% reporting positive impacts on their school or college, and 93% confirming that their experience has made a difference to their pupils. The impact of our CPD is being experienced within schools more than ever before – 95% of teachers said they had shared their learning with other colleagues or with their department.

View the latest Project ENTHUSE report.

New cohort of ENTHUSE Partnerships under way

The National Science Learning Centre has extended its reach into primary schools and networks via the ENTHUSE Partnership awards, which are targeted particularly at the primary sector. The awards are intended to support groups of up to eight schools which work collaboratively to support the development of professional expertise in science and other STEM subjects, and thus raise standards and close the achievement gap between groups of students. These Partnerships are funded for a period of two years.  

From September 2015 we have seen thirteen Partnerships getting started across England – more than ever before. We have been able to add more schools to the programme due to additional funds being released by Project ENTHUSE based on the success of the project thus far.  

New Design and Technology courses being created

Over the summer we have been developing a new suite of Design and Technology courses via a series of workshops with experts in the field. Gemma Taylor and the National Science Learning Centre team have been busy updating and refreshing the support programme which will roll out over the coming year. The interesting range of new courses cover: 3D printing, supporting the creativity process in design, e-textiles, wearable technology, and food science. We are also launching new primary school courses that will introduce Design and Technology concepts at an early age.

Teacher Industrial Partners’ Scheme goes from strength to strength

The Teachers Industrial Partners’ Scheme (TIPS) is growing fast and we are looking to increase the number of placements on offer. The teacher placements are intended to expand teachers’ understanding of STEM in the workplace, and their knowledge of STEM careers and vocational pathways. Over the summer, 17 teachers went to a broad variety of industry placements with companies such as: Babcock (engineering), Grontmij (construction/architecture) Transport for London (engineering), Crossrail (engineering) and IBM (technology). We would welcome expressions of interest in the scheme from employers. Promotion of the scheme through our educational partners to alert teachers to this opportunity would also be very welcome.  

Introducing the Teacher Academic Partners’ Scheme

This November we will be launching the Teachers Academic Partners’ Scheme ready for February 2016 placements. Five universities have already pledged a week-long placement for teachers of A level Biology. The scheme is created and funded by the new ENTHUSE Alliance partner, the Biochemical Society and it is intended to inform and inspire teachers about careers and opportunities in academia for their students. The scheme will also address the use of mathematics skills in biology and aid transition from A level stage to first year at university.

Online courses planned with TES

After the success of our recent large scale online courses ‘Assessment for Learning’ and ‘Managing Behaviour for Learning’ which together engaged around 10,000 teachers, we are now working in partnership with TES to develop a series of targeted online courses that will start to roll out in January 2016. The National Science Learning Centre is working with TES to launch the first online course supporting teaching of GCSE Physics. This is a slight change in the original targeted date due to a delay in the release of specifications for the GCSE by Ofqual. This series of courses is intended to be the start of a long-term partnership, enabling yet more teachers, technicians and others to benefit from our knowledge and expertise. Three schools, which have already been identified by the National Science Learning Centre, will be the venues for filming these courses, which will also serve to raise the profile of the selected schools.

Technicians Conference in July

On 2 July and 3 July, we welcomed 220 technicians to the National Science Learning Centre for the National Technicians Conference in association with the Association for Science Education (ASE). This is a key annual event for technicians where they are able to enhance and apply new skills and knowledge in practical work; discuss and describe ways to improve practical work and the technical system in their school or college; and learn about updates to the technicians’ profession. A part of our continuing commitment to supporting the professionalization and recognition of technicians, the National Science Learning Centre and Gatsby Charitable Foundation are running a programme to support science technicians in schools and colleges to set up their own local technicians’ networks. A local science technician network is a great way to share expertise, solve problems, gather ideas and to carry out cost-effective professional development.

NQT summer school

A highlight of the summer activities at the Centre in York was the secondary school NQT summer school from 24 August to 28 August. We worked with teachers who are at the start of their NQT year developing their skills around planning, preparing and practising their lessons. The new teachers were able to try out core practical demonstrations in a safe environment – and increase their confidence and depth of understanding. During the same week a second cohort of teachers that have completed their NQT year were able to deepen their pedagogical skills and gain additional practical experience. Having both cohorts attend in the same week allowed for good networking opportunities and the exchange of ideas between the two groups of teachers. 

Network of Science Learning Partnerships

Report on SLPs is very positive

In July, Isos Partnership completed their review of the National Science Learning Network Regional Programme. The review reveals the direct, positive impact which the Science Learning Partnerships (SLPs) are having on teachers, pupils and schools across England. Since August 2013, more than 14,500 teachers and support staff have benefitted from professional development provided by the Network. This professional development has impacted positively on the science education of around four million young people. Over this period, one in five schools in England drew on Network support, including two-thirds of secondary schools. The report recognises the challenges in shifting the model for CPD from nine regionals Science Learning Centres to a school-led model across the whole of England, and comments on the successful transition: “It is a notable achievement that, within five terms, the new network has exceeded the levels of reported impact of what was a well-established and mature delivery model.”

Congratulations to winners of Teacher and Support Staff Recognition Scheme

Congratulations to all those teachers and support staff from the Teacher and Support Staff Recognition Scheme who won awards at this year’s ENTHUSE Awards dinner at the Wellcome Trust on 25 June. We had a record number of entries for the scheme this year over three distinct categories, showing the value that educators see in this professional recognition scheme. Over the coming year the Science Learning Partnerships have targets to identify eligible teachers and support staff across England. Our scheme allows educators to demonstrate their commitment to professional learning, as well as the impact it has on pupils, colleagues and the wider profession. In a world of accountability and performance-related pay progression, it provides evidence to support the Teacher Professional Standards.

Developing Sustainability through the Network Teacher Leader Programme

We continue to work on developing a strong cohort of Teacher Leaders to deliver CPD across the Network. We identify key teachers that are already excellent in the classroom and then build their skills to become excellent CPD leaders, as well as encouraging their understanding of issues in science outside of their speciality. We further develop our teacher leaders in network building and effective school-to-school support. In this way we are continually building capacity in the Network: currently we have trained over 800 Teacher Leaders.

National STEM Centre

National STEM Centre reach and impact

The National STEM Centre website is becoming more popular than ever with 47% increase in website registrations between July 2014 and start of August 2015, and 118,346 users registered by end of July 2015. At least one teacher is now registered with the STEM Centre from 100% of UK secondary schools and 75% of UK primary schools, and often more than one.  

We have also seen more activity on the website with the number of page views up by 13% to over 5.8 million page views during the period July 2014 – July 2015. 

Visitor numbers to the Centre for non-CPD activity reached 1,800 for this period compared to 1,626 last year. Our increase in mathematics-related activity is particularly strong having more than doubled. Science and primary visitor numbers have remained stable which is a positive indicator, given the reduction in face-to-face CPD during this past year.

Doing our bit for the BBC micro:bit 

Dave Gibbs from the National STEM Centre is heading up work to support the BBC launch of the BBC launch of the micro:bit in UK secondary schools. Up to one million devices will be given for free to every student in Year 7 or equivalent across the UK, to inspire young people to get creative and develop core skills in science, technology and engineering. We are hard at work developing teaching resources and CPD activities to support teachers and make sure students get the most out of this new opportunity. We will be using the network of Science Learning Partnerships to deliver this CPD, thereby increasing reach and effectiveness for the programme as a whole. 

Building capacity to support mathematics

The National STEM Centre – working with the National Science Learning Centre – is actively growing its support for both mathematics and computing from primary right through to post-16, including close partnerships with subject associations such as NANAMIC and NAMA. New courses for secondary computing are being rolled out to support changed GCSE and A level requirements. There will be a conference at the STEM Centre specifically addressing computing in SEN in November. Our ‘New to Teaching A level Mathematics’ CPD in the summer holiday was very popular. This course is sponsored by MEI and Casio, and links mathematics teaching with technology as teachers attending the CPD also receive a free graphical calculator. 

ESERO Tim Peake Primary Project 

To celebrate British astronaut Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station in December 2015, ESERO-UK at the National STEM Centre is offering an exciting teaching resource and CPD package for primary schools. To date over 650 primary schools have signed up to be involved in this project which will run for two years. Schools will receive targeted CPD and all-school intervention with their local space ambassador. They will also receive a dedicated resource pack, the Tim Peake Primary Project Starter Pack, to help them make the most of this historic moment with their students. The Tim Peake Primary Project is running across England via the network of Science Learning Partnerships. 

National Science Learning Network in the News

Jim Knight commented positively on the new Impact report in his recent article.

Guardian Education published a story on teachers’ conditions and recruitment. This was in close partnership with National Science Learning Centre and used some of our recent research.

Visit the National Science Learning Network Blog for the latest comment on education trends.

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