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School Gate SET: Giving scientists and engineers the opportunity to get back to work after a career break

Introducing the School Gate SET

For parents with a background in Science & Technology, talking to our children about how the world works; taking them to science museums; even doing a few backyard & kitchen experiments, all comes very naturally. Many primary school children, though, don’t get these experiences. Primary school teachers need to have a broad knowledge base, but often don’t have a STEM background and can find these subjects more challenging to teach. Even teachers with an interest in and enthusiasm for science and technology, find that the demands of the curriculum, with its focus on literacy and numeracy, leave little time for other subjects.

This is an area where schools can really benefit from parental expertise. We know of instances where parent governors have been given a responsibility for improving science provision across the school or are running after-school STEM/code clubs. We would like it to be much more common for parents with a STEM background to get involved in even more hands-on ways. To this end, we have founded the School Gate SET, an online community for parents who want to help with STEM in their children’s schools: sharing ideas and inspiring other to get involved.

The project is the brainchild of Kate Bellingham, STEM ambassador, former Tomorrow’s World presenter, and long-time champion for women’s opportunities in engineering. When her children were young and she was working part-time, she began to help out at their school in the usual ways: listening to readers and chaperoning school trips. Soon, though, she began to wonder if her skills could be put to better use. She began helping in maths lessons and, eventually, running an after-school STEM club. She really enjoyed seeing how excited and inspired the children were and, upon hearing one of the girls exclaim “That’s Emily’s Mum, she’s an Engineer!”, felt that she was also challenging some stereotypes along the way.

More recently, School Gate SET parents got involved with British Science Week: you can read about one of the activity days here. Our next “call to action” is for “Tomorrow’s Engineers Week” (November 2016) and we will be running some free training workshops for parent volunteers who would like to deliver a supporting activity. Please get in touch (or see here) for more information.

So, if you have a passion for STEM and would like to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, have a chat with the Headteacher or Science co-ordinator at your children’s school about how you could begin to contribute. For activity ideas, check out our blog and Facebook page. If you have questions about how to get started, tweet or e-mail us and we’ll be happy to share our experiences. If you are a teacher who would like to encourage parental involvement, get in touch and we can provide a flier to send out to parents.

We look forward to hearing from you!
Helen

email: schoolgateset@gmail.com

Twitter: @SchoolGateSET

website: https://schoolgateset.blogspot.co.uk/

Notes about the funding for School Gate SET initiative:
The funding is from the Royal Academy of Engineering’s “Ingenious” program which supports novel ways of getting engineers involved in outreach activities. We are looking for engineers who are on a career break after having children (so, mostly women) and are in danger of being lost from the profession altogether. The funding is to run workshops on how to deliver an engineering activity to school-children, to (re)build confidence and to help engineers think about what they want to do next in their careers. We hope that this will help with the STEM “pipeline problem”, both by showing primary school children some “non-stereotypical” scientists and engineers as well as showing women they can get back into a STEM career after a break.
Our over-arching goal for the School Gate SET is to get more parents and carers from all STEM backgrounds helping out in schools and contributing ideas, advice and support to our online network.