As a Newly Qualified Teacher with a background in chemistry, I was thrilled to get my first teaching post at a school whose headteacher has a passion for science and a desire to develop the subject in school.
During my first year, I was supported in leading science by the head and now, nearing the end of my second year teaching, the school is a Rolls-Royce Science Prize finalist; in the process of gaining a PSQM Gilt Award and the profile of science in school is higher than it has ever been!
Our journey began when I attended a number of courses provided by the National STEM Learning Centre, one in particular called ‘Creating a buzz and raising the profile of science’.
After filling in an online action plan and sharing the CPD with the other teachers back at school, I received a phone call from Rolls-Royce explaining that my action plan had been shortlisted for their prestigious Science Prize and the school had been rewarded with £1,000. Additionally, if I was to submit a further action plan, we had the opportunity to be one of six finalists; win an additional £5,000 and be supported by a Rolls-Royce mentor to develop science in school… and that’s exactly what happened!
"Science is at the heart of our school community. Our children are enthused and sharing their love and understanding at home; our teachers feel confident in teaching high quality, practical science and our families are involved with the learning happening in school."
The project, titled Scientists’ Storytime, was inspired by the rich contexts available in children’s literature. Using a stimulating text, teachers were tasked with creating STEM-themed challenges, inspired by the story or its characters.
Children were then encouraged to take on the role of a scientific professional in order to gain the practical skills and knowledge to help. Then, they were tasked with applying their new learning to the problem, giving them a fun way to learn and a new awareness of STEM careers. We also made use of local woodland to help children understand that science can be found everywhere- not just in the classroom. This project has provided our children with a real purpose for science learning and drastically increased their Science Capital.
There is now a real buzz about science in school. The whole school community is involved, excited and passionate about science and have even formed links with community groups including Girl Guiding. We have worked hard to promote females in science and to show our girls that they can be just as successful as any boy!
Attendance at STEM Club, which will soon be in its third year of running, has quadrupled and this year’s members have acted as STEM Ambassadors in school by organising events, presenting assemblies and inspiring younger children to become scientists – just like them! I could not recommend the whole Rolls-Royce Science Prize process enough and would encourage others to submit an action plan, even if it seems unachievable, because Rolls-Royce can make it possible – they certainly did for us.
To make sure that science continues to be developed within the school, part of our prize money has gone towards funding a Primary Science Quality Mark – an exciting challenge that will last a year and involve further action planning and reflection.
"There is now a real buzz about science in school. The whole school community is involved, excited and passionate about science."
Last year, the school celebrated British Science Week by holding a large open event, giving the children the opportunity to share their learning with their families, local councillors and the Mayor of Wakefield. Moving forward, I hope to expand this event by taking part in The Great Science Share and involving other schools in the area by giving them a platform to share their STEM learning on a larger scale.
Now, science is at the heart of our school community. Our children are enthused and sharing their love and understanding at home; our teachers feel confident in teaching high quality, practical science and our families are involved with the learning happening in school.
My learning journey began with the National STEM Learning Centre, a love of science and lots of enthusiasm – yours can too!
Rebecca Riley is a Year 3/4 Teacher and Science Lead. You can follow Rebecca on Twitter at @MissRJRiley.