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Year 12 STEM Conference

Year 12 students studying two or more science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are invited for a day of enriching lectures and workshops. These aim to stretch the students beyond the national curriculum and provide a taster of their chosen subject at university.

Subject workshops are delivered by teachers from Highgate School, our partner schools and from external organisations, including the Francis Crick Institute and University College London. The workshops are all designed to be practical in nature, giving the students an opportunity to explore practical applications of STEM using equipment and procedures that they have not met before.

In addition to the practical workshops, students all take part in a science communication session, during which they are introduced to the processes and stages involved in publishing original research. They have the opportunity to be guided through the reading of a research paper in the hope that they will be more confident when reading primary literature.

The final element of the day is a keynote speaker that discusses their career and research in an area that the majority of the students will find approachable.



  • Generate further interest and enthusiasm for STEM subjects beyond the national curriculum
  • Encourage the study of STEM-related subjects at the next level (i.e. KS5 to University)
  • Enhance students’ practical skills and confidence when approaching the practical application of STEM subjects
  • Provide students with an opportunity to engage with active researchers in STEM fields
  • To generate in pupils a sense of belonging to a wider community of STEM enthusiasts

Identified Need

It has been clearly established that there is a STEM skills shortage in this country. According to the STEM Skills Indicator (May 2018) it is estimated that there is an estimated shortfall of 173,000 skilled workers and that 89% of STEM business struggle to recruit for key roles. Indeed, with new STEM roles expected to double in the next ten years, there may be a substantial economic impact if this skill shortage continues.

It is vital, therefore, that young people are encouraged to continue the study of STEM subjects beyond A level to university. There is a clear drop off in the study of some subjects in key groups, including girls continuing the study of Physics and Engineering, where only 18% of undergraduate entrants are female [Institute of Physics, 2016]

Furthermore higher education institutes and employers regularly comment that school leavers lack the necessary skills to succeed at university. Students that are more able to embrace primary research and approach their work critically are more able to succeed at university and are more attractive candidate to potential performers.  


Availability of students in partner schools – eligibility criteria to take part are that students study 2 or more STEM subjects at A level and looking to study a STEM subject at A level. The size of an event may be hampered by the potentially low numbers of such students in some schools.

Availability of subject specialist staff to deliver workshops. The conference sees students split across 12 workshops, all of which aim to deliver material pitched beyond the A level curriculum.

Engagement with external organisations. One of the great strengths of the event is the presence of active researchers from prestigious research institutions, such as the Francis Crick Institute, University College London and the University of East Anglia. Highgate has been able to take advantage of industry contacts held by current members of staff.

Venue Requirements

Since the event sees a substantial number of students taking part in workshops and enrichment activities over the course of the day, a large number of laboratories, workshops and classrooms must be available. In addition, a large hall or lecture space for briefings and keynote speakers should be available.  

Immediate Beneficiaries

Pupils from partner schools and the independent school strengthen their love for STEM subjects by working closely with their peers during workshops.

Content is design to stretch and challenge pupils beyond their A level studies, giving pupils a sense of the subjects they enjoy at the next level.

Any visiting staff/technicians can use the event as a CPD opportunity, with a view to bringing this engaging content back to their own schools.


The project has its origins as an internal event at Highgate School, offering a day of enrichment for Year 12 students who are looking to continue their study of STEM subjects beyond A level at the end of the academic year. The opportunity was identified by, and continues to be managed by, the Head of Science.

In recent years, Highgate has built a substantial programme of support for sixth form students in our local partner schools. In keeping with this, the School made the decision to open this opportunity to those students from our partner schools that would benefit from further enrichment beyond their A level curriculum.


Critical Resources:

Teaching staff and active researchers to lead workshops. Between 6 and 10 teachers are required for the entirety of the day.
Close partnerships with nearby sixth forms
Availability of high-spec laboratories, classrooms and prep rooms to facilitate workshops

The event is traditionally hosted in a school, making use of laboratories (both wet and dry areas), classrooms and a hall.

Potential financial contributions include the cost of covering staff involved in the event and the cost of recruiting a keynote speaker, should there be one.


Students are surveyed about their experience, highlighting whether they felt that they met the project outcomes (increased awareness of their chosen subject beyond the curriculum, a feeling of belonging to a wider community of STEM enthusiasts, increased understanding of future options in STEM, including higher education and careers).

Pupil Involvement

The most successful iterations of the event are those in which half of the attendees are from the independent school and half are from multiple other state funded sixth forms / colleges.

All the pupils are in Year 12, so are between 16 and 17 years old.

All genders take part in the project.


This is a single event, but it serves as both the culmination of multiple other interventions over the course of the year and as the introduction to a wider programme of sixth form events.

This event has been running for five years and we anticipate that it will continue to run for a number of years. This is one of the many events in which Highgate collaborates with the London Academy of Excellence Tottenham.