Widening Participation Schools

Traditionally and anecdotally we’re told that science engagement projects tend to reach the better resourced schools where young people often have plenty of opportunities. Which means some schools are not taking part. But it isn’t so easy to identify them.

We often talk about wanting to reach widening participation schools, but what does “widening participation” mean? It seems that no two universities share the same definition.

We use a set of criteria, measured against the school; a school meeting any of the criteria points below will be counted as a widening participation school.

  • A school in an area where POLAR3 is in the first quintile.
  • A school where the % of students eligible for free school meals is higher than 41%.
  • A school where the % of students achieving 5 grades A*–C at KS4 is below 45%.
  • A school where the % of students level 4 in reading, writing, and maths at KS2 is below 45%.
  • A school where the % of pupils who live in 20% most deprived datazones in Scotland is higher than 60%.
  • An SEN school.

We also want to look at schools far from HEIs, as these schools are more difficult for scientists and researchers to reach; a PhD student is much more likely to travel 20 minutes to a school to give a workshop, than take out an entire day to visit a school an hour away. Being online, our projects provide opportunity regardless of location.

We will also give priority to schools which are:

  • More than 25 miles from their nearest major research HEI.
  • More than 45 minutes standard travel time from their nearest major research HEI.

We have written about our distance analysis here.

Independent schools will not be counted, even where meeting the criteria above.

We are constantly looking to learn and understand more about which schools are under-served by STEM enrichment activities, and how we can better reach young people at these schools. As such, our criteria may be revised from time to time.

You can read about our efforts to reach schools and young people under-served by traditional STEM activities here.