“Just over a week ago, Professor Brian Cox and I ran our eighth Science Summer School in a school in what was, just over a decade ago, a failing housing estate and failing school in Tower Hamlets.”
So began Lord Mawson’s speech to fellow members of the House of Lords on July 15, as Parliament’s upper house marked the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.
Lord Mawson co-founded the event in 2012 – in a bid to encourage careers in the UK’s science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM) industries – and this year welcomed more than 400 young people convene from over 50 UK schools.
The Science Summer School was held at St Paul’s Way Trust School, and reflects the aims and aspirations of the host institution, as Lord Mawson outlined to peers: “Our means of turning around what was a failing school was, first, to get good leadership and build a focused team of staff; then to inspire the children and expose them to the lives and journeys of this country’s top scientists and engineers; then to connect this yearly inspirational event to the ongoing science and engineering curriculum in the school; and, finally, to make sure they meet, hear and work with people who are actually running some of this country’s top science and engineering businesses. Join the dots, create an aspirational culture and believe in these children: they have many talents. We know; we have the data to prove it.”
Like Lord Mawson, Professor Brian Cox has been an integral part of the Science Summer School from the get-go. This year he hosted the event and gave a talk about the science behind the theory of relativity and the evolution of the universe.
A range of science-, engineering- and arts-focused workshops complemented the talks, including a session with photographic artist Helen Marshall, co-founder of The People’s Moon, a global project aimed at uniting humanity by celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. The programme also included Andrew Smyth, an aerospace engineer and finalist on Great British Bake Off finalist, who discussed ‘When Baking Meets Engineering’, and speeches from mathematician Dr Steven Le Comber and bioengineer Dr Tina Chowdhury.
One of the summer school’s key sponsors is Ibstock. Group marketing director, Annette Forster, said: “Not only does the Science Summer School celebrate the importance of STEAM businesses for the wider economy, but reinforces the fact that Britain is the best place to learn and experience science and arts. It was a fantastic day, where hundreds of young people had the chance to be truly stimulated by some of the leaders in their respective fields.”
Reflecting the event’s nationwide pull, one of the schools in attendance was Lathom High School, based in Skelmersdale, West Lancashire. Dionne Paxton, the school’s careers adviser, said: “There was a great mix of inspirational lectures and practical and exciting workshops for pupils to enjoy and give them a real taste of what opportunities are available in STEM. One of the key messages that came through was the career opportunities available, particularly in apprenticeships – it gave our students some food for thought.”