Q4. How are the science and maths curricula enriched? What extracurricular opportunities are available for pupils?

Why this is important

Informal learning experiences – such as clubs in schools or external trips to zoos, science centres or festivals – can build pupils’ knowledge and skills and improve attainment. They can stimulate interest in science and maths, widen knowledge, and provide social, cultural and historical context. The Royal Society believes that “informal learning should become an inherent part of the science and mathematics curriculum.”76

  • 74% of pupils who visited a hands-on science exhibition reported increased interest in science afterwards.77
  • After visiting a science centre 18% of boys and 22% of girls changed their minds to agree with the statement “I would like to be a scientist”.78
  • External visits, such as to universities and colleges, local businesses and industries, can help pupils to see the real-world links to what they are studying in classes.

Informal learning is equally important for teachers. Key impacts of engaging with STEM Ambassadors include personal development (for example, positive changes in confidence, motivation, enthusiasm, attitudes and aspirations) and an increased ability to relate STEM lessons to real-world applications.7980

Benchmarks

According to an Ofsted report on science education in schools, the majority of primary schools invited science visitors and science clubs into their schools.81

A Science Community Representing Education report found that in a sample of primary schools, 69% invited external speakers to give pupils practical science experiences in the classroom one to three times per year. Some schools invited external speakers 10 or more times per year.82

Ideas for improvement

Governors should be aware of how much enrichment and extracurricular activity is going on at their school, both internally and externally.

You could ask about:

  • the range of activities on offer at your school
  • how many pupils are attending them and
  • whether any pupil groups in particular are underrepresented. If this is the case, it’s worth considering why this might be and what the school can do to address this

It can be useful for governors to use their own professional networks to support these experiences. They may be able to find external speakers or role models for pupils, as well as facilitating opportunities for pupils outside of school.

The following are examples of extracurricular activities that may be of interest to school leaders, subject leaders or teachers:

STEM clubs

  • STEM Learning has supporting information to help people wanting to set up STEM clubs, much of which is aimed at Key Stage 3 but can be adapted to use with Key Stage 2 pupils.
  • Some parents may have STEM expertise that they could share with pupils, and the STEM Ambassador website can help schools to connect with STEM professionals for talks, help with STEM clubs, and all sorts of support. Likewise, Primary Futures provides access to volunteers from a range of backgrounds, including STEM.
  • The Primary Science Teaching Trust provides online professional development to give teachers ideas and guidance on running a science club.
  • The National STEM Centre website hosts numerous resources that can be used to enrich science and maths teaching, as well as discussion groups in which teachers can share ideas.

For teachers

  • Engagement with scientists and engineers also impact in teachers. STEM Learning works with primary schools by helping them to make links with STEM professionals in their area.

Awards and competitions

  • The British Science Association offers CREST star awards to recognise pupils’ achievement in STEM projects outside of the classroom.
  • The NRICH website hosts a range of mathematics challenges, puzzles and problems which can be used to enrich mathematics teaching.
  • The acquisition of a PSQM award requires (to varying degrees) strategic planning and integration of extracurricular activities into whole-school initiatives, and as such can help to promote STEM enrichment in the school.

Outside the classroom

  • Pupils can benefit from science learning experiences outside of school, such as visits to science centres and museums or trips to science fairs, many of which are free, for example the Big Bang Fair. The UK Association for Science and Discovery Centres provides a list of its members, many of which run activities for school groups.83
  • Most universities have access and outreach programmes, some of which include local primary schools.
  • Approaching local secondary schools, sixth-forms and colleges can lead to links being built with their science and maths departments, and their pupils.

Funding

  • The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Sector runs educational grant schemes, including funding extracurricular science club activities in primary schools. Applications can be made for up to £1,000.
  • The Royal Society runs a scheme of Partnership Grants, providing grants of up to £3,000 for STEM projects run in schools in partnership with a professional scientist.

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