Director of Education and Engagement, Science Oxford
I have worked in the informal science learning sector for nearly 25 years, following a BSc. in Chemistry and an MSc. in Science Communication. I was the Science Officer at the Exploratory Science Centre in Bristol before moving to Science Oxford (SO) where I am now the Director of Education and Engagement, leading a small team of 12 FTE staff.
SO delivers a STEM education and public outreach programme that reaches over 30,000 people each year which involves working with a wide range of cultural partners and STEM employers across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. SO is the key partner for the Oxfordshire Science Festival and hosts a makerspace which is run in collaboration with Oxford Hackspace Ltd. SO ran a small science centre in Oxford for 23 years from 1990, and is now building a new innovation and science education centre in an 18-acre woodland site in Oxford, which is currently due to open in late 2018. I am leading the development of the science centre part of the project, an opportunity which is bringing me much joy and excitement after so many years in the sector!
In 2012, I partnered with Helen Wilson from Oxford Brookes University, to lead a primary science teaching training programme with 40 Oxfordshire primary schools called ‘Thinking, Doing, Talking Science’ (TDTS). TDTS was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and evaluated by the University of York as an RCT. The four day training course was proven to have a significant impact on the attitudes and attainment of pupils in science, especially for girls and for lower achieving pupils. As a result, TDTS secured further EEF funding for 2016-18, and is being evaluated to see if the impact holds via a ‘train the trainer’ model, working with partners in seven English regions and 200 primary schools – it is currently the EEF’s largest trial.
What I bring
I have a breadth of experience that covers many bases in informal science learning and public engagement with science, and which has involved working with many different audiences.
I have worked in both a large and a small hands-on science centre, and have been an active part of the sector for many years – I was Vice-Chair and then Chair of BIG from 2011-17 and have been the Education Co-Chair of ASDC.
I have particular expertise in primary science, which has been significantly strengthened by my experience leading the TDTS project, and the opportunity it has given me over several years to work more closely with teachers and other primary science experts.
In this digital age there is still something special about a science and discovery centre, the social, face-to-face experiences that they can provide, and the unique physical environments that they offer. I think it is important that we play to our strengths and collaborate with other elements of the informal science learning eco-system in our collective bid to make a difference to people’s lives and to reach a more diverse audience with what we do.
As someone who was involved in running a small science centre for many years, and who is currently developing a new small science centre, based on a sustainable funding model, I would like to help to ensure that ASDC continues to represent, and offer opportunities to, all types of centres.
My experience of the TDTS project demonstrated to me the impact that informal science learning expertise can have when applied to the provision of high-quality, interactive, teacher CPD. I want to be a champion for the skills that can be found within the sector and the difference they can make to the achievement and attitudes of young people in science.