View all news

Bristol ChemLabS spark pupils’ uptake of Chemistry

A pupil from Robinswood Primary School gets close to chemistry with the help of a Science and Engineering Ambassador from Bristol

A pupil from Robinswood Primary School gets close to chemistry with the help of a Science and Engineering Ambassador from Bristol

4 January 2007

UK schools report a rise in the uptake of Chemistry at A level, and several cite their partnerships with the University’s ChemLabS as a direct influence.

Since their establishment as a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning early in 2005, Bristol ChemLabS (Chemical Laboratory Sciences) have been running programmes for primary and secondary schools, as well as for the wider community, through its Outreach Team. ChemLabS also support continuing professional development for teachers by running masterclasses on topics that have special appeal to young people, such as climate change, perfume chemistry and polymers. These events, co-ordinated by School Teacher Fellow Tim Harrison and ChemLabS Outreach Director Dr Dudley Shallcross, are enhanced by contributions from postgraduate students, who are fully trained to act as Science and Engineering Ambassadors.

One example from the South West is typical of the positive effects of ChemLabS’ outreach work: Year 12 pupils from Malmesbury School attended the University’s Chemistry Week in autumn 2005 and 2006, and got hands-on experience of lab work with Tim Harrison. The school’s Head of Chemistry, Sharron Cunningham, reported a record number of students in this year taking Chemistry at AS level, and is certain that their experience with ChemLabS ‘had an impact on pupils’ interest in chemistry at GCSE, and prompted them to take the subject at AS’.

Another indication of success can be found in the questionnaires completed by the University’s first-year Chemistry students in the past two years. These show a staggering increase over that period – from 7% to 44% – in the number of incoming students who say that they were exposed to chemistry outreach activities at school. Of the most recent respondents, 42% said that they had attended at least one Bristol ChemLabS Outreach event.

‘Through the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning award, Bristol ChemLabS has been able to build on its already extensive outreach programme though considerable support from all members of the School of Chemistry,’ says Dr Shallcross. ‘When the refurbished undergraduate teaching laboratories come online in spring 2007, we will be able to expand our repertoire of outreach events even further’.

The outreach calendar is full until September 2007 and there are bookings as far ahead as January 2008.

You can find details of specific activities on the outreach website.

Edit this page