Elizabeth Truss visited Imperial on 14 May to set out the Government's plans to increase the number of students studying Maths and Science at A Level.
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare outlined the need for better Maths and Science teaching to encourage more pupils to take up STEM subjects after the age of 16 - particularly young girls and those from less affluent backgrounds.
This was followed by an opportunity for the Minister and guests to visit Imperial’s Wohl Reach Out Lab, the College’s state-of-the-art laboratory established to raise the aspirations and scientific literacy of young people of all abilities from a diversity of backgrounds.
Speaking to an audience made up of figures from industry, academics and Imperial staff, Elizabeth Truss MP said: “Too often, maths and science are misunderstood. They’re seen as ‘hard’ - as subjects best kept for the whizz-kids - rather than subjects that, with careful layering of knowledge and gradual, steady application - can be mastered and manipulated by anyone. They’re seen as niche - rather than the basis of any number of careers - and ever-more so in the modern economy. And they’re seen as male - rather than equally open to all.”
“We can’t afford this, and other countries have much higher levels of participation and similar performance by girls and boys - so we know it’s possible.”
The Minister went on to introduce the Government's new policies and funding to help schools inspire pupils to take up STEM subjects. These include an £11 million investment in ‘Maths Hubs’ - centres that will facilitate the sharing of best practice to drive up the quality of Maths teaching, and the creation of Maths and Physics chairs - postgraduate specialists who will go into classrooms to run master classes, deliver online lesson demonstrations, and help schools link up with businesses and universities.
This university is one of the best centres in the world for science. Get it right, and that excellence - that world-beating education - will be there for the taking - for all our students
– Elizabeth Truss, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare
The Minister also highlighted the Your Life initiative, a campaign that Imperial is championing together with government, businesses, professional bodies and leading educational institutions to boost participation in technology and engineering careers among women. She said: “From Airbus to Facebook, L’Oreal to Lloyds - and including Imperial College - it’s an impressive list of household names from every sector, aiming for a massive change in attitudes to maths and science”
Concluding, the Minister said: “Imagine what it could look like with informed students, more teachers and better input from universities and businesses. We won’t be talking about too few girls, or too few students from low income backgrounds. We’ll be talking about what our young people - all of them - have achieved.”
“This university is one of the best centres in the world for science. Get it right, and that excellence - that world-beating education - will be there for the taking - for all our students.”
Professor Debra Humphris, Vice Provost (Education) at Imperial College London, said: "Imperial is strongly committed to boosting participation in STEM, particularly from those who have historically been underrepresented in these areas. We have recently made four clear pledges as part of the ‘Your Life’ campaign in order to improve opportunities for girls and women in engineering, science, technology, and maths – and are delighted to welcome Elizabeth Truss to the College to explore what else we can do to further this aim.”
Ms Truss’ visit ended with a tour of the Wohl Reach Out Lab during one of its teaching sessions, where students from Westminster Academy and the Bridge Academy in Hackney were taking part in a physics workshop led by Imperial postgraduate Philippa Nuttall.
Secondary School teacher Nick Borley had accompanied a group of his pupils from Westminster Academy to the Wohl Reach Out Lab. He said: “The lab provides a fantastic opportunity for our students to engage with the practical side of science and see how the things they learn in the classroom relate to real life. As well as boosting their enthusiasm for the subject, this also allows them to see what university life is like, and the kind of work that goes on in a research lab.”
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