Smallpeice makes a big difference

6 August 2018

This summer, The Ogden Trust has been supporting a Smallpeice Trust and Royal Holloway, University of London initiative to get more girls into physics. The annual project, which is now in its second year, includes a three-day residential at Royal Holloway for Year 10 students and a series of STEM enrichment days for girls.

Three STEM enrichment days were held at schools in London. Walthamstow School for Girls, Parliament Hill School and Wallington High School all held an event, which were attended by 170 students. From these days, eight students were offered fully-funded places on the STEM residential.

“We were delighted to be able to offer these funded places to students who have shown a genuine desire to take physics further but could not necessarily afford to take part in a full-time residential” says Neil Noble, Business Development - Trusts and Foundations for Smallpeice.

A glimpse of university life

In total, 67 girls attended the residential. Students got a taste of undergraduate physics and experienced a small slice of life at university. They got up to date with the exciting and cutting-edge research taking place in Royal Holloway, ranging from exploring the quantum world at ultra-low temperatures to the physics of elementary particles at the very highest energies. They attended lectures by world class researchers like Professor Jocelyn Monroe on dark matter and Dr Stephen Gibson on accelerator physics. They also got hands-on with various practicals and created their own mini-projects, which they presented on the last day. PhD students and current undergraduates at Royal Holloway were on hand to support the school students and provide an insight into life and study at the university.

“The College has a long and proud history of enabling the university education of women: Royal Holloway was one of the first university colleges for the education of women in the UK, founded in 1886” says Professor Stewart Boogert, Head of the Department of Physics. ”We are committed to addressing the under-representation of women at all levels in university physics and hold Juno Championstatus (an initiative of the Institute of Physics). At present, the intake into our undergraduate physics courses is 40 per cent female, significantly above the national average. It is a pleasure to host the 2018 Girls into Physics course run in collaboration with the Smallpeice Trust”. 

Mentoring: a new feature 

Following feedback from the students in 2017, a new mentoring feature was developed for the 2018Girls into Physics residential. Seven Year 12 students, all winners of Arkwright Engineering Scholarships, participated in this residential with the aim of guiding the Year 10 students through their mini research projects, but to also give them insights about what it is like to take physics at the A-levels. 

“We hope that having the mentors on board will encourage the girls to take physics at A-level says Ms Anna Christodoulou, Ogden Outreach Officer at Royal Holloway. “In addition, interacting with our undergraduate physics ambassadors is interesting and beneficial for both age groups.”

“We believe our STEM enrichment days and the summer residentials are really helping to change the attitudes and perception of the girls who take part,” explains Kevin Stenson, Chief Executive of Smallpeice Trust. 

“We follow the progress of our residential participants in the years after their course and over the last decade (2007 to 2017) we estimate 1,540 girls have gone on to study physics or a related, science, subject at university. 

"We are confident that this year’s programme and our partnership with Royal Holloway will continue to support our efforts in this area,” concludes Kevin.

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