There is little existing research explicitly focused on how to raise aspirations in students from disadvantaged backgrounds or social groups that do not traditionally take up science careers. Research into barriers to progression in chemistry could potentially suggest where interventions might be focused most effectively and what approaches might raise students’ aspirations.
Our belief that everyone should have access to a high quality chemistry education led to the development of the Chemistry for All (CfA) project. Beginning in 2014, CfA provides an opportunity to explore and address the barriers to a chemistry undergraduate population demographic which reflects that of the wider population.
Aim and Objectives
To influence the UK government, and university and school leadership, such that the chemistry undergraduate population demographic reflects that of the wider population.
- To contribute to the knowledge base on the appropriate methodologies for studying the impact of longitudinal interventions (whether neutral, positive or negative) on target students from widening participation backgrounds.
- To provide insights into the success, or otherwise, of the intervention activities in overcoming barriers to progression in chemistry.
- To inform future Government practice and raise awareness in the UK Government and university and school leadership of the barriers to progression in chemistry for target students.
Outline of the project
From September 2014 a group of activity providers have been responsible for a series of sustained interventions for secondary school students, to take place over five academic years to July 2019. Two successive cohorts will take part in the longitudinal programme from Year 8 to Year 12 (Year 8 to Year 11 for the second cohort). A parallel research project is exploring the impact of the interventions.
There are three activity-provider universities, Liverpool John Moores University, Nottingham Trent University and The University of Reading in partnership with the University of Southampton. Each university runs their own programme of intervention activities, focussing on supporting students from low participation backgrounds. On average, 42% of the participating students have been classified as disadvantaged (via eligibility for free school meals, essentially reflecting low family income), compared to a national figure of 28%.
Intervention activities so far include after school clubs, mentoring, careers support, summer residentials, cascaded lessons delivered in timetabled chemistry lessons, university-based activity days, family events and online careers and homework resources.