School partnership: Halton

14 August 2020

Our Ogden partnership officially started in September 2020. Above all, our aim has been to promote a love of science across the entire borough. We have the chance to reach a huge number of children from a range of different backgrounds and experiences and we want to ensure all children are exposed to the same scientific opportunities.

At the heart of the Halton Partnership is a desire to help pupils to develop critical scientific thinking, learning to work scientifically and think scientifically so they can bring those skills to bear in their future studies and longer term in their work. We strongly believe that the scientist who is going to solve the world’s current problems – such as climate change or plastic pollution – is currently sat in one of our partnership schools. It is our responsibility as teachers to engage and inspire them to be able to solve scientific problems; giving them the passion and love to go further into the subject.

As a cluster of schools, we already had good links with Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, the Daresbury Laboratory/Science Centre and other local businesses and industry – as a partnership we have continued to build on and utilise these connections, which give us access to a raft of STEM ambassadors and activities.

As a mixed partnership, we have great opportunities to develop young technicians in secondary schools and to better support the transitions from Year 6/7, Year 11/12 and also sixth form to college using the Ogden university links. Our primary schools are building their science provision around the Crest Award scheme: Year 1 students are working towards the Star award; Year 4 the Superstar award and Year 6 the Discovery award. A key part of the Superstar Award is a science ambassador programme; our Year 4 primary pupils are working with teachers and with sixth form scientists to develop their science and science communication skills. They will share their knowledge and enthusiasm with younger pupils and at community events. Following the first of these sessions, the positive feedback from participating schools was amazing!

This year, we have had very productive half-termly partnership planning meetings, which are giving all the schools the chance to talk with ambitious and enthusiastic science leads who are all pushing towards the same goal in exciting the children we teach. These after-school partnership meetings have included a mix of practical work, professional discussions and research-based tasks; all with the goal of improving the scientific opportunities we are giving to all children.

We have also used these meetings for additional teacher CPD, which has been a focus for this year as several of our partnership schools identified the subject knowledge and scientific opportunities staff have experienced as an area of weakness. Science subject leads have all completed this year’s Phizzi CPD and shared the knowledge back at their schools; EYFS teachers have completed the Ogden Science Talk training to introduce scientific thinking and learning to the very youngest pupils. We also have CPD sessions planned with Manchester University which will help give a fresh range of ideas to primary teachers (especially those new to the job with a limited science background) and support our high school and college to help with key exam technique and revision tools for A-level students.

As a partnership, we have been researching and showcasing best methods of science recording and assessment, looking at ideas for developing science content and introducing more scientific research, and we have asked the question – what does outstanding science teaching look like? We have shared our findings and ideas to up-skill staff with new skills and improve confidence, which has in turn had a positive impact on science lessons across the schools. As a part of this, we have totally changed our science curriculum at Lunt’s Heath - hub school for the partnership. We now use a STEM-based approach combining resources from the STEM Learning website and also the free Ogden Trust resources to ensure the children are constantly being faced with scientific problems which they need to solve. This has been shared across the partnership and other schools are now starting to adopt a similar model.

At Lunt’s Heath we have been really fortunate to be able to create a science corridor to celebrate the science at our school and this has been one of my highlights of the year. In fact, probably a highlight of my teaching career! We entered the Best in Class competition, devised by recruitment agency Randstad to try and secure the funding we needed. The competition gave teachers and schools across the country the chance to bring learning to life for their pupils – and we won! After a huge amount of hard work, the corridor has been created to engage and inspire the children and will display their best work alongside some practical science fun which will change each week. We hope the children will take this knowledge home and pass a positive science message on to their parents.

I have also used the Institute of Physics Marvin and Milo scheme to promote the love of science outside of the classroom. Each Friday, I email home two Marvin and Milo science book comic book strips for the children to investigate over the weekend. These are all physics experiments which can be conducted using household materials. The children complete these activities and lots of them tweet pictures and videos to me which is great to see. Other partnership schools are now doing similar; such a huge impact can be had with such little effort on behalf of the schools. In just eight weeks, we had over 20 per cent of our school (80 children) engaging with the scheme with the number constantly rising.

This year, the Halton Partnership has taken part in the Engineer Leaders Award to design an invention to solve a problem which the children had. It could be as simple as getting out of bed in the morning to solving the climate problems. We used the Wallace and Gromit – Cracking Contraption videos as inspiration before the children created their designs. They have submitted an A4 labelled drawing of their invention and an A4 page explaining how it worked. They absolutely loved this task and some of the inventions were mind-blowing! We have submitted our entries and will not wait to see what happens, the overall winning design will be created by engineer students ay university, which is extremely exciting.

Eighteen months ago, I started off on a journey to inspire the future generation of scientists at my school (Lunt’s Heath). With support from The Ogden Trust, I have been able to reach out to 16 schools across Halton. It is so pleasing to look at the impact the partnership has had on the children we teach. I can’t wait to develop it further!

Matt Crook
Halton Partnership, 2020- Partnership Co-ordinator (Ogden Partnership Fellow 19/20) Year 6 teacher and science lead, Lunt’s Heath Primary School
(May 2020)

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