The Abingdon Science Partnership, ASP
The Abingdon Science Partnership (ASP) is primarily a science outreach organisation supported and funded by Abingdon School. The ASP works with local primary and secondary schools; community groups such as Scouts and Guides and local organisations such as the ATOM Society and Science Oxford. In addition ASP is an official partner with national organisations including the Institute for Research in Schools and the Ogden Trust Primary Science Partnerships. For ASP’s work in 2016-2017, we were shortlisted for a Times Education Supplement Schools Award in the Community and Collaboration category. In 2018 we were also shortlisted for the independent state school partnership category in the Tes Independent School Awards.
The aim of the ASP is to strengthen participation in science in a wide variety of ways across the Abingdon district and beyond. We aim to share good practice in STEM teaching and learning in particular by providing opportunities for children and adults in the area to take part in a wide variety of experiences related to science and technology.
Abingdon is in a key location as far as national and international science resources are concerned, with many local people working at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, the Harwell Science Campus or the University of Oxford and its associated science parks. Careers and activities related to science and technology are therefore very relevant in the area and the opportunity to promote these further was a key consideration when the Yang Science Centre was opened at Abingdon School in 2015. A dedicated Science Partnership Laboratory was included in the design of the building and a post was created for the Co-ordinator of the Abingdon Science Partnership, to oversee and further develop Science Partnership activities.
The ASP has a dedicated, school laboratory with room for 32 pupils to carry out practical work and a further, breakout area where other activities can take place. The ASP can offer support for science related events in many different ways including school visits, equipment loans and use of our dedicated and well equipped science teaching laboratory. These facilities are available to all types of school and community groups. Abingdon School employs a Co-ordinator for the ASP and a Graduate Science Partnership Assistant. In addition, certain members of the science teaching staff have some timetable allowance for carrying out Partnership activities and technicians also contribute as required. There is a separate, departmental budget to help run ASP activities.
The impact on raising the profile of STEM activities in local schools and in the community has been enormous and continues to grow. In the first official year of ASP activities nearly 1000 pupils from other schools visited the ASP Lab, along with around 350 adults accompanying them, or attending adult events. Hundreds of local primary children have achieved the British Science Association CREST Awards and the ASP has played a key role in the revival of the five day Abingdon ATOM Festival of Science and Technology. Formal evaluation of impact is one of the aspects being developed by the ASP Graduate Assistant.
Pupils from Abingdon School act as Abingdon STEM Ambassadors, assisting with both internal and external events. A team of Senior STEM Ambassadors has been appointed to oversee these volunteers. Pupils from the sixth forms at other, local state secondary schools have also volunteered in a similar way. Pupils can use this opportunity to gain hours for the Duke of Edinburgh Award Service requirement, for development of leadership and personal skills or simply because they enjoy the experience.
Events take place on a daily basis, with some at weekends or in the evenings and outside the School’s normal term time depending on demand and opportunities that arise.