STEM sessions open up new world for Fylde Coast’s future scientists

A careers project has enabled Fylde Coast students to explore the world of science, as part of a wider programme to help young people explore the benefits of further and higher education.

Year nine and 10 students from Montgomery High School, South Shore Academy, Cardinal Allen and Fleetwood High have been participating in the Science Capital project, which was created to stimulate interest in STEM subjects and make students aware of the related career paths and opportunities available.

Students have been benefitting from a range of industry insights, from group coaching sessions with Lancaster University Physics PhD students and demonstrations including exciting pyrotechnics displays at Blackpool Sixth Form, to career assemblies and virtual tours of the LUniverise planetarium at Lancaster University.

Delayed due to the pandemic, sessions were recorded and made available to be delivered in class or at home, to also help encourage parents to broaden their interest in science.

The project was led by Mhairi Mitchinson, Assistant Head of the Department of Science at the Blackpool Sixth Form College, in partnership with Lancaster University Physics Department and Future U.

Mhairi, a former engineer, established the Fylde Coast Ogden Trust Partnership in 2012, with Blackpool Sixth Form as the hub school. The Ogden Trust is a charitable trust which was created to promote the teaching and learning of physics.

She said: “I have always been passionate about opening doors to all young students to study STEM subjects and overcoming barriers that might stop a student from achieving. The project built on the work we have been doing over the past decade in the Blackpool area and has been received very well. It is such a pleasure to work with such dedicated teachers, students and staff to help inspire our next generation.”

Jessica Richmond, Senior Coordinator, at Future U, added: “As the Science Capital project was initially delayed due to the pandemic, it’s fantastic to see how effectively the delivery has been adapted to ensure students aren’t missing out on these vital engagement opportunities, while prioritising safety.

“It’s important to make careers outreach interesting for not only pupils, but parents and guardians too, as their support is so important when it comes to young people exploring what may be possible in their futures beyond school. There are so many educational and career pathways relating to science, and we’ve been thrilled with the feedback from students who have now been exposed to potential careers they may never have considered previously.”

Dr Andy Blake, Lecturer in Physics and the Physics Outreach Coordinator at Lancaster University, said: “It is a pleasure to work on this exciting schools engagement project in partnership with Blackpool Sixth Form College and Future U. It has never been more important to support the learning and career aspirations of young people in Blackpool and the Fylde Coast. By providing pupils with opportunities to interact with our staff and students in online lessons and assemblies, we aim to show them that science is open to everyone.”

Future U is part of the national Uni Connect Programme, funded by the Office for Students, and continues to support school pupils across Lancashire to encourage more young people to think about higher education and future careers.

The project involves institutions and organisations across the county including the University of Central Lancashire, Lancaster University, Edge Hill University and the University of Cumbria. Lancashire’s Future U works with a network of schools, in addition to colleges, higher education providers and local agencies to create tailored activities to meet the needs of students for now and the future.

Future U’s list of partners includes: Blackburn College, Blackpool Sixth Form College, Blackpool and the Fylde College, Burnley College, Edge Hill University, Inspira, Kendal College, Lancaster University, Myerscough College, Nelson and Colne College, Preston’s College, STEMFirst, Runshaw College, The Lancashire Colleges, University of Central Lancashire, University of Cumbria, West Lancashire College.

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