Swansea University Science for Schools Scheme (S4) is a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) outreach project connecting Key Stage 3 pupils in South Wales with university science. S4 is led by research scientists and aims to get young people excited by, and engaged in, science through free, hands-on, curiosity-driven, and research-led workshops. S4 aims to increase access to STEM learning and to improve STEM uptake and attainment in higher education in students from backgrounds with traditionally low participation in higher education and STEM.
S4 participants take part in lab-based, hands-on STEM workshops, at a dedicated outreach classroom on Swansea University’s Singleton Campus. Our workshops complement and reinforce the national science curriculum, covering topics in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Literacy and numeracy skills are also key elements in our teaching.
S4 was established in 2012 by Professor Mary Gagen and Dr Will Bryan at Swansea University, and since 2018 has formed part of the pan-Wales Trio Sci Cymru Consortium. The programme is supported by the European Social Fund and Welsh Government.
S4 has run hands-on experiments, experiences and science shows both on the Swansea University campus and in schools, since 2012. In talking to and surveying participants, parents and teachers, S4 has learnt a great deal about what influences whether a child engages with STEM subjects and feels confident about their ability to ‘do science’ and how this influences young people’s consideration of STEM careers. The most recent iteration of S4, launched in April 2018, aims to improve attainment in Biology, Chemistry and Physics through hands-on workshops, and to study how such activities change the way children think about these subjects.
The S4 Trio Sci Cymru programme is made up of two full-day science sessions per term for three years, following the same students from year 7 to year 9, and are structured to give the pupils the opportunity to develop practical skills, knowledge, and confidence in their ability to do science. Within a single day, three workshops, based around the three Triple Science subjects, are led by qualified and engaging experts in the subjects. Emphasis is placed on combining hands-on activities, discussions and short talks, with care to showcase the work of female scientists and highlight the wide range of scientific careers that exist. Schools with low STEM participation are targeted in line with the Welsh widening access policy, with the aim of widening participation in science to cover all demographics and create a more diverse STEM-engaged community.
S4 is now able to deliver workshops via online livestream, on-location field trips or directly in classrooms. This allows us to meet the individual requirements of each school we work with.
We have also set up an online portal that participating teachers and pupils can access any time they wish. The portal contains a large selection of video and written material covering all of our workshops and a variety of other scientific topics. In addition to the online portal each participant has received two Bumper Workbooks and an S4 Experiment Box, containing materials for 10 science experiments that can be carried out at home.
S4 currently works with seven partner schools (Bishop Vaughan R. C. School, Cymer Afan Comprehensive School, Cefn Hengoed Community School, Dylan Thomas Community School, Pentrehafod School, St. Joseph’s R. C. School and Sixth Form Centre, and Ysgol Maesteg) as part of an in depth three-year programme. Nevertheless, we will continue to take part in public events, such as talks by prominent scientists from across the globe, British Science Week, and several local festivals and roadshows across South and West Wales.
Trio Sci Cymru is a collaborative education and outreach programme, comprising the Welsh Government Office for Science (WGOS), Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea Universities. The aim of Trio Sci Cymru is to understand the attitudes and uptake of the sciences by children in school years 7 to 9. Biology, Chemistry and Physics activities will be delivered in schools, and will be used a platform to encourage the uptake of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) across Wales, while facilitating the longitudinal study of factors that influence this vital route for young people, via education at all levels, to a skilled workforce.
Bishop Vaughan R. C. School (Swansea)
Cefn Hengoed Community School (Swansea)
Dylan Thomas Community School (Swansea)
Pentrehafod School (Swansea)
St. Joseph’s R. C. School and Sixth Form Centre (Neath Port Talbot)
Ysgol Maesteg (Bridgend)
Ysgol Cwm Brombil (Port Talbot)
Key stats and findings from 2018 – present day.