By Sarah Thacker
16 January, 2020
Ormiston Park Academy’s Assistant Principal Sarah Thacker discusses how the STEM Girls Accelerate programme is benefitting its female students.
Last term, 30 students from three Ormiston academies took part in the second STEM Girls Accelerate trip.
To start the day, PhD student Alex Partner and Artificial Intelligence researcher Dr Ana Matran-Fernandez delivered a session on university research projects, and shared their unique journeys from school, to college, to university. Ana is a finalist in the Women in Science & Engineering Awards in November and a lecturer at the university.
This was followed by a myth-busting session on student loans and bursaries delivered by National Collaboration Outreach Programme provider ‘Make Happen’, in which the students found out the real facts and figures of paying back university fees.
The most popular session was without a doubt the afternoon’s STEM Workshop delivered by Technology in Education specialists JTRS, in which the students were able to build, code and adapt Lego robots, competing in a race at the end.
Student ambassadors from the university led campus tours at the end of the day, providing an excellent insight into student life and all of the study and sports facilities the University of Essex has to offer.
Reflecting on the opportunities of the day, Ormiston Park student Alicia said:
“I’ve enjoyed taking part in the two STEM Accelerate trips so far. During the last trip at the University of Essex, I really enjoyed the interactive robotics workshop, as it was fun to get to play around with a simplified version of the programs that people use.
The opportunity to get to go to these workshops is really good, as it helps you to see what university life is like and what you can achieve by going to university.”
The STEM Girls Accelerate programme consists of five university trips for female students with high prior attainment, accompanied by their female science or maths teachers. Each trip provides the students with an insight into a different area of STEM, including maths, engineering, computing, chemistry, physics and biomedical science.
Women are still greatly under-represented in STEM careers, with only 13% of the overall STEM workforce in the UK being female. OAT therefore recognises how important it is to give our female students opportunities to understand the multitude of STEM courses and careers that are available to them after school.
The first trip to the University of East London (UEL) had included a People Like Me event delivered by Women in Science & Engineering (WISE), in which the students were able to meet with ten female representatives working in different STEM industries, and hear about their courses, routes into STEM and what their careers involve on a day-to-day basis.
The world of STEM is so broad, with such vast career opportunities that a stand-alone trip to the local university would not be sufficient. I wanted the students to be able to meet many different lecturers and university students from all different backgrounds, from undergraduate students to PhD lecturers, to meet someone they could relate to in the process.
As well as addressing the gender in-balance in STEM careers, the programme also aims to encourage our students to find out more about higher education and raise their aspirations to consider university as an option in the future.
The students had the opportunity to visit five contrasting universities in metropolitan, suburban and rural settings, and were able to see the variety of facilities each campus has, including: UEL, the University of Essex, the Royal Holloway London, the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London. With the students attending from academies from the South region, the OAT Travel and Transport Fund has also played a crucial role in enabling our students’ access to these trips.