BESA science workshop shows how to fill STEM skills gap

Seven members of the British Educational Suppliers Association put together an interactive workshop for Year 7 and 8 science teachers and technicians

A recent BESA science workshop looked to engage the field’s teachers and technicians with experiments, and made a point to discuss the links to the curriculum.

Among them, SLS Education explored magnetism by extracting iron from breakfast cereal with a magnet, and Timstar displayed experimental skills by making milk glue.

On its lab desk, Data Harvest demonstrated the Dynamics System, showing how to time carts travelling down a track. Using two light gates Jonathan Reed, International Sales Manager at Data Harvest, measured the speed/velocity (or time) it takes the cart to travel from A to B. He explained to the teachers that, as well as giving students accurate readings, using technology also allows them to repeat the process again and again. They can add mass to the cart, or change the incline, to see how that affects the results.

Jonathan told BESA: “The application of technology allows the user to focus on the outcome, rather than the mechanics of manually logging the data, and for many students the fact this technology allows them to see the experiment and graph of results simultaneously is the key to understanding.”

Experiments have always been part of a science class, says BESA, but “the school funding cuts are now jeopardising students’ access to practical science”.

One of the teachers at the workshop stressed the need to ensure students keep benefiting from practical science. “That’s when magic happens,” she said. “That’s when children become enthusiastic and passionate about science, so it’s imperative we don’t cut practical science from the curriculum.”

Her views were similar to those featured in the recent Gatsby report, in support for practical science in schools, which STEM BESA members firmly agreed with.

Paul Harrington, Managing Director of Timstar and Chair of BESA’s Science Special Interest Group, commented on the report: “The fact that only 3% of schools have enough facilities and equipment ‘to do frequent practical science’ is not only damaging to the short-term educational performance of students in UK schools, but also puts in jeopardy the future state of our UK workforce and the STEM industries which depend on it.”

Jonathan, from Data Harvest, concurred: “Giving learners access to quality resources that bring the STEM curriculum to life is key to ensuring that they have a passion for the subject, and perhaps help to encourage them to study for a career in the sciences.”

Teachers from all around the world took part in the practical science workshop: Norway, Malta, Hong Kong, Greenland and Denmark were represented, next to teachers from all corners of the UK. Suppliers demonstrating their science resources included Data Harvest, Gratnells, IDS Education, the RSC, Scientific Labs and Timstar.