One of our long term goals is to increase the number of Widening Participation schools taking part in our projects, but to do this, there’s a fairly fundamental question to ask first: What is a widening participation school?
Without establishing what would count as a widening participation school, it’s difficult to target these schools, and even more difficult to evaluate how well we’re doing in increasing the number taking part. Time then, to set out some criteria.
A Widening Participation School is…
- A school where the % of students achieving grades A*–C at GCSE is below 45%, or…
- A school where the % of students eligible for free school meals is higher than 41%, or…
- A school in an area where POLAR3 is in the first quintile, or…
- An SEN School
Independent schools will not be counted.
In 2013, a school with more than 41.6% of students eligible for free school meals would put that school in the highest quintile for primary schools. For secondary schools, the boundary was 44.3%.
What about the most recent events?
In June 2015, 16% of the classes taking part in I’m a Scientist were from a school meeting the Widening Participation criteria above. In I’m an Engineer, 17% of the classes.
We want to reach more widening participation schools, and we’re looking for new ways to do this. We’re going to pay extra attention to these schools, making sure they get the most out of taking part, that they get a live chat booked, and that the teachers are aware of other things they can do to get all the potential out of taking part. A lot of this is about sharing other teachers’ experiences which will be useful for any teachers taking part.
- Now we have a set of criteria we will be able to measure more accurately the numbers of Widening Participation schools we have taking part.
- Priority places will be given to schools meeting the criteria above.
- We need to improve our definition. What we have now is a placeholder definition. We believe that the schools we should be targeting are schools in rural areas where it will be difficult for the students to have contact with scientists and engineers. We want to look at schools and create a list of schools far away from research institutions. These are the schools we should focus on getting to take part.