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Key Stage 4 Science Masterclasses

Chemistry and Physics teachers from Highgate lead practical chemistry and physics masterclasses, in which pupils in Key Stage 4 from local state schools get the chance to develop their scientific knowledge and practical skills. The sessions are designed to complement their GCSE studies and provide enrichment opportunities for those looking to go beyond and get a sense of what these subjects are like at the next level.

Aims

The aims of this project are to give pupils the chance to develop their practical science skills and give them the opportunity to carry out experiments they may not have the chance to otherwise do at school. We aim to support and enhance the pupils’ science GCSE learning, as well as to encourage them to take chemistry and physics at A-level and beyond.

The identified need was that there is a significant drop in proportion of science teachers at GCSE and upwards that hold a science degree. Only 49.9% of teachers who teach physics in secondary schools hold a physics degree, and 60.8% of chemistry teachers hold a chemistry degree (School Workforce Census 2017). Therefore teachers without the specific degree may not be as confident in delivering practicals to GCSE classes, or stretching and challenging their higher ability students. These statistics are realised in direct requests for this support from partner state schools.  

The critical factors for success are methods of communication with science teachers and students in partner schools, as well as the availability of Highgate School teachers who can deliver these sessions. Other critical factors for success are the use of science labs during the masterclasses, as well as equipment and resources for the practicals carried out. Each masterclass requires one teacher to lead the sessions, a member of support staff to be responsible for logistics on the day, one equipped chemistry or physics lab and support from science technicians and catering staff in the preceding days.  

The immediate beneficiaries are the partner school pupils. Pupils that are able to practically engage with their learning are far more likely to engage with the subject and perform better in exams. The sessions also allow partner school pupils to become more engaged with science and more equipped to make decisions about their future studies. Highgate staff reflect on their partnership work positively, as working with a more diverse group of pupils provides more challenges and allows them to develop their pedagogy in all settings.

Background

The first masterclasses took place in 2013, with a small cohort of pupils pursuing their GCSE studies taking part in masterclasses led by teachers whose salaries were partially funded by the Ogden Trust.

Resources

The project requires the use of the science labs and any chemicals or equipment required for specific practicals, which should be readily available in the labs.

Each masterclass uses a member of teaching staff- either a Chemistry teacher or Physics teacher, depending on whether the masterclass is chemistry or physics. A member of non-teaching staff is also present (A chrysalis fellow: recent graduate or gap-year student employed by Highgate school and involved with partnership projects) to register the students as they arrive and escort them to the labs.

The financial contribution consists of the salary for the teachers and support staff for their time spent delivering the sessions.

The financial contribution consists of the salary for the teachers for their time spent delivering the sessions.

Impact

Students complete feedback forms about the masterclasses regularly, and we assess whether their interest in science and their likelihood to continue with chemistry and physics at A-level increases.
Each year, we have seen the vast majority (at least 90%) of students say that they have enjoyed the sessions, developed new practical skills and have learnt something new, beyond their GCSE studies.  A small number the cohort say that the sessions made them more likely to continue these facilitating subjects at A Level.  

Pupil Involvement

The pupils are from Highgate’s partner state schools, between the ages of 14 and 16.

Frequency

Pupils start in the spring term in Year 10 and continue until the end of the autumn term in Year 11. Therefore, pupils take part in five masterclasses per term for three terms.