At St Helen and St Katherine School this evening there was a panel discussion at the start of the ATOM Festival – The Abingdon-on-Thames Festival of Science and Technology.
The question for the all female panel was ‘If you had $3m dollars how would you encourage more engagement in Science’. The speakers were: Shefali Sharma, Steph Hills (former student at St Helen and St Katherine), Dr Jess Hamer, Vicki Potter, and Dr Suze Kundu.
The speakers said how Science and Technology is very important in the modern world. And that diversity is important in a team working on science and technology. A wider range of minds help to find and solve the issues facing society.
Each speaker had a different way to spend the money. But it would be fair to say they all wanted to overcome physical access issues, and increase access to Science whatever people’s gender, ethnicity, and social background. Steph Hills said she would use the money to make all science facilities accessible. Having blown the $3m budget on that she suggested ways to encourage diversity for free.
It was recognised some people get put off doing Science. Top grades in Science and Maths at A Level is not the only way into a Science career. Apprenticeships with practical making and engineering skills can also lead people to work on important science programmes. One speaker mentioned conversion programmes to get people into Science who get interested in Science and Technology later in life.
After hearing all the discussion, members of the audience voted on their top priority for the $3m. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics has the acronym STEM). Here are the results:
Improved teaching came out top. Dr Jess Hamer said there is a shortage of Maths and Science teachers in the state schools. To remedy that she suggested ensuring teaching is more valued by society; it should be better paid; teachers should be allowed to teach their specialisms early on; and have more autonomy.