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Using Science Researchers in Schools

The UK is a world-leading research nation. Recent analysis  shows that the UK generates more articles per researcher, more citations per researcher and more usage per article authored than any other nation in the world. Securing and sustaining a supply of the best researchers is vital to ensure the UK maintains that position and can find solutions to the challenges facing the economy and society, now and in the future.

One way we can do this is by encouraging young people to consider research as an option for their future careers by bringing the world of research into the classroom. Researchers are excellent role models for young people and can play a key role in motivating students and raising ambition. A survey of over 1,000 scientists carried out for the Royal Society showed that just over half had been influenced in their career choice by a visit to a scientist’s or engineer’s place of work, and nearly a quarter had been influenced by a scientist or engineer visiting their school. Research Councils UK (RCUK) fund a variety of activities, resources and grant schemes developed for teachers and others who deliver science, technology, engineering and maths as well as the social sciences, arts and humanities in schools.We also support researchers to work with schools and develop their skills. Researchers offer an in-depth knowledge and enthusiasm for their research area, which can bring a subject to life in the classroom and highlight its relevance to the wider world. Schools find these partnerships highly rewarding and a positive influence on pupils. Dr Moira Martin at the Sherfield School in Hampshire described the impact of a researcher placement on her pupils: “It was a fantastic experience for the students. It helped them analyse situations and pick up different techniques. All children at different abilities were interacting; you could see the potential benefits for their development. You only have to look at the researchers in action to see their enthusiasm and how powerful the different techniques they use are for doing something special with the students. Bringing real-life researchers into the school is a powerful learning tool.”

Another benefit of partnerships such as these is that teachers benefit from extra classroom support, particularly in delivering and enriching more complex subjects and themes. We support a portfolio of successful and innovative initiatives that connect our researchers to schools, as well as providing high-quality and engaging resources for every subject discipline. This includes the Bringing Cutting Edge Science into the Classroom – Teacher CPD programme that is designed to help secondary school teachers bring ideas from cutting edge research into their lessons, capturing and retaining the interest of their pupils. It also supports teachers’ development of specialist knowledge and helps them gain an understanding of current research.  

Dr Steven Hill

Head of Research Councils UK (RCUK) Strategy Unit

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