Although science is considered a core subject, it is not assessed in primary years in the same way as English and maths and may not always get the same level of attention, especially when strategic plans are made.
In order to help redress this balance an Ogden Trust Science Governor group was set up in 2016. The idea was to encourage a voice for science on the board of governors. The board of governors have responsibility for working with headteachers and the senior leadership team, in setting the strategic direction for their school and reviewing educational standards so that children and young people have the chance to realise their full potential. They support headteachers, but also ask questions and make sure the headteacher is taking the school in the right direction.
A core of six school governors with an interest in, or a responsibility for, science in their school started meeting once a term to discuss how they could best support their schools’ science programmes and the work of The Ogden Trust.
By pooling their experience and swapping ideas, the group defined where they can make the best contribution and are continually developing a list of actions that are grouped into three main areas:
- Lobbying to help raise the profile of science. Present the positive things the science team are doing at Governors meetings, and ensure correct support given. Talk to pupils about where science can take your career and help to involve parents.
- Provide practical support to release time for staff. Help with tasks like organising events, making phone calls, writing letters and chasing arrangements for all the amazing extra-curricular science activities. Then the staff can concentrate on the pupils.
- Networking and building links. Attending meetings and events to further the science network between educational establishments. Building links with businesses and industries to show pupils what an exciting career you can have from studying STEM subjects.
The group also offer support to other governors for example sharing excellent science resources and useful questions to ask when visiting the science team. We asked two of the group what they get out of being a science governor.
Christine Brown, current Chair of the group, is a parent governor at Birchensale Middle School in Redditch, Worcestershire, with a background in manufacturing and business improvement.
“I help to raise the profile of science both inside and outside the school, support the staff with extra-curricular science activities and help build links with other organisations,” explains Christine. “I am proud to make a positive contribution to the excellent work already carried out by the science team and support them to provide amazing and exciting experiences for the pupils. I’m particularly keen to raise awareness with pupils, parents and school staff about the amazing possibilities that open up for students of STEM subjects and the big demand there is for engineers and technicians in our exciting manufacturing future.”
Clare Webster is a parent governor of The Coppice Primary School in Wythall, Worcestershire and also the science link governor. She has a background in accountancy but a keen interest in physics having studied it at Oxford University.
“The emphasis being placed on science and the commitment to ensuring all the pupils have the best science experience they can is evident throughout the school and of course in our Ogden Phiz Lab,” says Clare. “I am proud to offer my assistance wherever possible to the fantastic work done by the science leader, be that through reviewing the school development plan, undertaking the ‘Pupil Voice’ questionnaires, helping with external trips, or taking on the difficult task of judging the science fair entries.
“Being part of the Ogden Science Governor group provides a valuable link to like-minded individuals with their wealth of experience and ideas.”
Although the Science Governors group was started in Worcestershire and is still most active in the Midlands, they are keen to expand the membership and reach of the group.
“Clare and Christine are governors at schools with an active commitment to science, but we know others do not have the same resources or programme of science activities,” says Wendy Cox, Head of School Partnerships. “The role of science governor in other schools may be more challenging but none the less vital and rewarding. If you would like to learn more about our Science Governors group and how you might be able to participate – either through a virtual support network or by attending our meetings, please contact Christine.”