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A partnership profile

Mark Turner, partnership co-ordinator and Headteacher at Durham Gilesgate Primary School, reflects on some of the achievements of the Central Durham Partnership.

Published: 26 September 2023

The Durham Central Partnership is heading into its fourth year – partnership co-ordinator and Headteacher at Durham Gilesgate Primary School, Mark Turner has taken some time to reflect on a few of their achievements over the past 12 months – which have included the official opening of the partnership Phiz Lab and the second instalment of their popular summer science fair.

Phizzing with excitement

Earlier this year, Science Ambassadors from Central Durham Partnership schools engaged with a fun-packed day of super science as Durham Gilesgate Primary School officially opened their Partnership’s Phiz Lab.

The hands-on science activities included exploring forces with parachutes, experimenting with lemon batteries, chromatography, pond dipping and investigating seed germination, as well as some science communication skills training to help the ambassadors share the science across their school communities.

“The school, and our partnership, embraces this Phiz Lab as an opportunity to promote science teaching and STEM activities,” explains Mark. “In addition to science lessons taking place in the Phiz Lab we have already delivered some CPD around embedding progression in scientific enquiry and the lab has been used by STEM ambassadors to enhance and enrich the curriculum. An after-school science club is also held in the room each week.”

“The Governing body of our school has been fully committed to the creation of the Phiz Lab. We have converted the community room with new flooring, some new benching, an interactive white board and new tables,” explains Mark.

Two groups of children are seated around desks working an adult is looking over one of the groups

Showcasing science

The partnership’s second summer science fair was also held this year at Durham University – 60 children from six partnership schools attended to present their science investigations and to engage with a fun day of science learning.

Teams of eight to ten children from the six partnership schools brought a science demonstration along to the fair; working in groups of four or five, each school took the time to showcase their demonstrations and to explore the science on show from the other schools. This year there were investigations into fingerprints, how the moon reflects light, ‘dancing raisins’, magnetism, the effects of gravity (Aristotle vs Galileo) and static electricity.

The science ambassadors from Durham Gilesgate Primary School were also on hand to perform science busking, practising some of the science and communication skills they had learnt at the Phiz Lab opening!

The day finished with a short presentation on Mars by planetary scientist, Dr Paula Street, and awards for the children taking part.

Dr Lorraine Coghill, Ogden northeast regional rep and Deputy Director of Science Outreach & Engagement at Durham University, supports Mark in planning and delivering this annual event, which she says “…is always brilliant – the children are so enthusiastic and confident in their delivery of science. It is a real opportunity for them to develop communication skills and experience a university setting. Once it starts the day runs itself because the children are so engrossed in what they are doing.”

The festival is a highlight of the Central Durham Partnership. “It is one of our main partnership achievements,” adds Mark. “The opportunity for children to attend Durham University, together with other outreach activities from the university, is helping to raise the aspirations of children with regards to physics.”

six children are pictures around table they are investigating electricity at a science fair

Partnership in practice: Durham Central Partnership

“Ours is a primary school partnership,” explains Mark, “but we have strong links with our main feeder secondary school which has funded additional resources boxes for each primary school. Some of this specialist equipment, together with the Ogden CPD, is helping schools focus on achievement in physics and the sequencing of substantive and disciplinary knowledge across the whole science curriculum.

“The Phizzi CPD is impacting on teacher confidence and individual schools are also able to share their successes across the partnership; for example, how to organise and run a Lumiere event which ties in with a bi-annual festival held in the city centre,” continues Mark.

“I would recommend leading a partnership to any teacher who is passionate about science and STEM. It does take time, so you will need the support of your senior leadership team, but it is great professional development,” adds Mark. “The Ogden Trust supports partnership co-ordinators and the regional reps from the Trust are a great source of knowledge with links that help you widen your science and STEM offer in school,” he concludes.

Ogden school partnerships 

The Ogden School Partnerships programme provides five years of funding, support and CPD for schools who want to work together to enhance the teaching and learning of physics. Partnerships which include a primary school can apply for Phiz Lab funding of up to £2,500, in their second partnership year. Applications for new partnerships open each year between September and February.

You can find out more by visiting the partnership pages on this website

four students are investigating at a science fair

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