SCEC Saturday Science School
Southwark Community Educational Charity (SCEC) is a registered charity which operates three schemes of enrichment classes at Dulwich Foundation Schools for pupils at participating Southwark, Lambeth and Lewisham state primary schools. See scec-uk.org.uk
In 2020-21 the Dulwich College Science Scheme was for Year 6 pupils and aimed to provide an enjoyable introduction to practical science and improved confidence before secondary school.
The project aims to build on the work done by local primary schools by providing enrichment or extension classes for children in small groups, to improve learning and confidence before secondary transfer. It also allows pupils to experience some new ways of learning, for example by conducting their own scientific experiments in the College’s well-equipped science laboratories.
The project was started in 1992 by a local teacher and educationalist who perceived a need to provide extra tuition for pupils in local maintained sector primaries, who were often being taught in large groups. This teacher approached Dulwich College, who agreed to provide facilities and teaching resources for a scheme of small-group tuition on Saturday mornings. This scheme was soon used as a model for two other schemes at the other Dulwich Foundation schools (JAGS and Alleyn's). The schemes were placed on a surer footing by the creation of a separate registered charity, Southwark Community Education Charity, under whose auspices the schemes are run.
Normally, the scheme, held at the College on Saturday mornings, introduces some 50 children in Year 6 to practical laboratory science, with the aim of stimulating the pupils’ interest in science and boosting their confidence before their forthcoming move to secondary school. The classes are held in The Laboratory, the College’s fully equipped science facility, and pupils are introduced to some basic concepts of Biology, Chemistry and Physics and to the principles of the scientific method, over some 36 hours of free tuition during the year.
During 2020-21, with Covid restrictions in place for much of the year, the trustees of the charity took the decision not to run its enrichment schemes in person. It had been hoped that classes might have a delayed start, but in the event, no in-person tuition could take place. Instead, the College devised an innovative scheme to help the registered children to explore some key scientific concepts at home in conjunction with a series of online tuition sessions held by two members of the College's science staff. Children and tutors met online by Zoom on Saturday mornings; scientific topics were introduced and the children were given instructions, in the form of an engaging Microsoft Sway, on carrying out experiments at home. The following Saturday, the results of the experiments were discussed and then a new topic presented.
When hosting a Saturday School scheme, the College supports SCEC by providing facilities, equipment, refreshments and a fully trained member of staff to oversee the scheme on Saturday mornings. The College further provides SCEC with gratis legal support, around one day per week of administrative support and payroll services. The College provides two trustees, its Deputy Master External and Head of Junior School, to sit on the board of the Charity and oversee its safeguarding and strategic direction.
The online sessions took place over six Saturdays in the latter half of the Lent term. More than 40 children from ten Southwark primary schools took part; over 30% of those children were on Pupil Premium. With many children having very restricted access to learning during the pandemic, the online sessions were greatly appreciated as a valuable enrichment opportunity and a chance to interact with other children. One parent commented:
My daughter really enjoyed all of the experiments and information. She was able to tell us all about the experiments once completed and what she liked best about them.
usually around 20 older students from Years 12-13 at Dulwich College act as mentors on the scheme, supporting individual pupils in the classroom, carrying out administrative tasks and supervision, and, importantly, acting as role models for the younger children.
In the course of 2020-21, the College took the opportunity to reflect on how the Saturday School scheme held at its premises might best achieve local impact. Plans were made to adapt the scheme for 2021-22, so that a continuing Science scheme might be offered in the Michaelmas term and a Creative scheme offered in the Lent term. It was felt that participation might be widened to a group of schools in close proximity to the College where numbers of children on Pupil Premium are high. These plans are coming to fruition in 2021-22, with a welcome return to in-person teaching in the College's bespoke science laboratories from September. The scheme remains open to children of all abilities, who are selected by the participating schools