The UK has one of the worst rates of social mobility in the developed world, including a marked lack of diversity in STEM academia. Just 23% of state school pupils progress to the most selective universities compared with 65% of those from independent schools.
Whilst there are many good STEM and life-science educational interventions available for those with access, inequality of access must be addressed if we are to properly develop talent and opportunity for the next generation of scientists and engineers.
Equality of access in STEM
Villiers Park is a national social justice charity committed to equality in education and career opportunities for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Between 2017 – 2020, EET supported Villiers Park to build a team with the specific skills and experience needed to develop and deliver impactful STEM interventions.
By bringing in educators with science backgrounds, the charity was able to significantly grow their STEM programme, reach more young people from underrepresented groups and increase the uptake of STEM subjects at higher education level.
STEM-based work experience
The INVOLVE programme focused on personal empowerment through leadership development. The programme included national delivery of self-directed projects for young people that built their confidence, developed their employability skills and benefited a wider school community.
Through the EET Partner Network, Villiers Park joined forces with Founders4Schools to run “employer encounters” which allowed project leaders to connect young people to employers and open a world of STEM-based work experience and possible future career opportunities.
Scaling up what works
Prior to working with EET, Villiers Park was able to support 10 INVOLVE projects annually. By year two of the grant (before COVID-19), Villiers Park was able to scale up support to around 100 projects each year, resulting in over 700 direct student programme engagements over the term of the project and benefiting 14,000 pupils in broader school communities.
INVOLVE has developed into Leadership Challenge as part of the charity’s Future Leaders Programme. Villiers Park continue to build on learnings from this project to develop their programme in response to the needs of young people and changing education landscape.
Through the EET Partner Network, Villiers Park has developed mutually beneficial partnerships with over 10 organisations, creating opportunities for knowledge exchange and improvements in the STEM landscape around engagement and outreach. These partnerships continue to deepen beyond the end of the INVOLVE project with the development of a work stream focused on sustainable careers.
“The support from EET is about building strong relationships with organisations across the EET Partner Network to develop impactful interventions. Being part of the network makes us greater than the sum of our parts. It has been invaluable as we develop our work on STEM pathways into sustainable careers supporting disadvantaged young people.”
Rae Tooth, CEO of Villiers Park Educational Trust 2018 – 2022
Although this project was not specific to the life or natural sciences, the learnings are applicable across the portfolio of educational programmes within the EET Partner Network. These learnings help to ensure that equality of access underpins EET funding of educational interventions and deliverables going forward.