A study, entitled “Who is studying science? The impact of widening participation policies on the social composition of UK undergraduate science programmes,” undermined claims that Britain’s firms are facing a shortage of well-qualified people with science and technology degrees.However, it was suggested that 20 per cent end up in graduate jobs not related to their degree, while a further 24 per cent find work in sections of the economy not requiring a higher education qualification. Emma Smith of the University of Birmingham, who compiled the figures, said: “It is astonishing, in the light of claims of science graduate shortages, that so few new graduates go into related employment. We cannot stress too forcibly our concern at the critical shortage of graduates and postgraduates with STEM capabilities.” Smith chalked it down to two possibilities. Firstly, because of recent initiatives, there seem to be too many people studying science for the labour market to cope with, or perhaps graduates are no longer of sufficient quality. But it is more likely because they are dropping out having learned that they do not enjoy their subject areas. It is perhaps to address the latter factor, and inspire a passion for science from an early age, that former secondary school science teacher Dan Sullivan set up Empiribox. The company has a unique hands-on approach to primary school teaching and goes out of its way to devise lesson plans that are fun for children. This, according to Sullivan, is the key to success. “Science teaching at primary school needs to be consistently exciting and interactive,” he said. “But that can only happen if teachers feel confident in their knowledge of the science that underpins each lesson and can make learning fun and relevant for pupils.” He explained that currently over 95 per cent of class teachers in KS1 and KS2 have no science qualifications and so are uncomfortable with teaching a difficult subject where they feel a lack of confidence. Primary schools also often want to concentrate on teaching instead of spending time on planning and sourcing equipment. As such, Empiribox comprises of specific, topic-based sets of training for physics, chemistry and biology that not only covers the new National Primary Curriculum, but significantly enriches it. It also includes equipment, alongside lesson plans. Sullivan – whose ambition is to inspire children to continue science learning into secondary schools and beyond – maintained that the unique concept would revolutionise the teaching and learning of science in primary schools. “It’s a platform for the delivery of affordable and practical science lessons every week of the year over a four year rolling cycle for KS2 pupils in years three to six,” he explained. “That way enthusiasm for science is generated and sustained in children from an early age.” Read on to find out more about Empiribox’s funding endeavour.
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