On Friday 18 May, we welcomed an invited audience to our London home, Burlington House, for an afternoon of talks, conversation and inspiration – our Inspiring leadership in chemistry teaching event.
We brought together current and future leaders from education and science to talk about the qualities of great chemistry teaching, and the people who work so hard to educate and inspire the next generation of scientists.
The event was specially designed to provide teachers with ideas, opportunities and inspiration to be leading teachers of chemistry in future, and to support and inspire their colleagues in turn.
From Limerick in the west and Norwich in the east, Thurso in the north and Jersey in the south, and across the UK and Ireland, teachers of chemistry were nominated by their managers and peers to come to an event that is testament to their expertise and commitment to science teaching.
Our celebration began with a series of thought-provoking talks from leading figures in chemistry education. Our president, Professor Sir John Holman, was followed by Nobel laureate Professor Ben Feringa; Amanda Spielman, HM Chief Inspector of Ofsted; David Weston, Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust and Dr Niki Kaiser, Chemistry teacher and Research Lead at Notre Dame High School in Norwich.
Sir John Holman is now an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of York and vastly experienced as a secondary school teacher, headteacher, and government adviser. John talked about his varied career and encouraged his enthusiastic audience to continue to grow, to build on their talent and achieve their potential. He said: “We begin with you. One inspiring teacher can change a life. You can be that inspiring teacher.”
The audience were treated not only to an inspiring talk from Ben Feringa but were able to share in his birthday celebrations too – our Burlington House team baked a special cupcake periodic table to celebrate his milestone.
Following the birthday break, Sir John opened a panel discussion with questions posed to each of the keynote speakers in turn. Niki Kaiser spoke about how to square the requirements of exams with providing an enriched environment for studies, giving practical advice on techniques to use, as well as places teachers might take their students to enrich their experience.
David Weston spoke about the many practicalities of teaching and spoke passionately about things teachers should actively stop doing.
What did teachers gain from the day?
Sara Lambard, from Jedburgh Grammar School in the Scottish Borders, recently changed careers to become a chemistry teacher. She said: "It was really good to hear the exchange of ideas from the audience and, as I’m new to the profession, to be inspired by other teachers and the panel as well.
"I really enjoyed hearing about the link between what’s happening in universities and how that can feed back into schools. One of the presenters was talking about getting a journal club going and getting university students to come and talk to the students in her classroom, and I thought that was a really good idea.
Sara’s advice for people at the same stage of their careers is: "If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, as new chemistry teachers do with everything they take on board, just watch this event and get some ideas, get some inspiration – and enjoy!"
To make this content available for all chemistry teachers, our Education team colleagues will be publishing video highlights from the speeches and panel discussion next month.
Alex Garner from Mangotsfield School in Bristol said: "What I think I enjoyed most about the event was meeting other teachers. Networking is, to me, a horrible term but it’s really nice to meet teachers and exchange ideas and to build up this idea of a relationship based around the area that I’m teaching in.
"I genuinely loved the talk on how to manage and how to begin showing leadership characteristics even though I’m not in a leadership role, about how to build leadership qualities into your day-to-day life and your teaching career. The idea that I can display leadership qualities and try to build that into myself without that formal role, was really quite valuable."
Matthew Orsborne from Heron Hall Academy in Enfield said: "I enjoyed hearing from the range of speakers – there were a lot of interesting ideas that can be taken back to schools, a lot of discussion points that can be had with other teachers.
"It shows the networks available to teachers. Sometimes you feel that you’re very isolated to your school, and it shows that there’s a huge hub of chemistry teachers in particular here but teachers in science in general across the country that we can go to."
This year’s award aimed to recognise a teacher or group of teachers for their work in inspiring students from diverse backgrounds, and for encouraging them to continue their studies of chemistry or related subjects at the next stage of their education.
The team have won the award for inspiring and showing students – often those with fewer opportunities in life than others – the importance of chemistry in the world and providing them with the best possible chances for the future to study at top universities.