To make the transition from school or college to university more effective involves activities to widen participation, to raise awareness of university level STEM study and future careers, and to support students once they start their university studies. Widening participation continues to be a priority area for the Welsh Government. The Wales Spoke developed and facilitated many activities in support of widening participation and outreach in schools and colleges. For example, the Student Ambassador Scheme provided training to students to enable them to offer a range of STEM based outreach activities to young people aged 11 – 18. Schools and colleges with a low progression rate into higher education were a particular focus.
HE STEM Wales worked with a range of partners including the three Reaching Wider Partnerships, widening access officers based in universities, the Professional Bodies, and organisations such as STEMNET and the Engineering Education Scheme Wales (EESW). Examples of projects with partners include a medical technology experience for sixth formers and a Science Van to meet the need to raise awareness of STEM among young people and their families in rural communities in Mid and West Wales.
Research has demonstrated that many young people abandon STEM subjects after Year 12 or 13, often due to misconceptions about future career opportunities, a poor grasp of curriculum content at university or even as a result of pressure from peers who may not regard maths and science subjects as ‘cool’. As a consequence a range of activities and interventions were developed to address these issues. For example, the Teacher Fellows Project gave practising teachers of mathematics the opportunity to be based within a cognate university department to explore the HE curriculum and to look at the different learning and teaching styles within HE. The teachers were supported by a number of post graduate students of mathematics who visited schools to investigate these issues and others with groups of sixth formers and teachers.
A further key transition period is from first to second year study on a STEM degree. To enable successful progression at this stage, there was a Wales-wide Maths Support Programme. This was delivered in eight different university departments across Wales by STEM post-graduates who were trained to provide free Maths Support to undergraduates on a drop-in basis.
Case studies for the projects in Wales may be downloaded from links below:
Glyndwr Maths Eng at Work
Glyndwr Maths Support