Working at the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, I was shocked to see the extent of which the background of a child affects their educational outcomes. In London, just 3% of children who took GCSEs in 2008/09 and were eligible for free school meals progressed to Russell Group universities in 2011/12.
Universities such as Brunel offer many huge opportunities to students, opening doors for future careers, higher incomes and also providing a well-rounded life experience. However recent research by the LSE and Manchester University showed that there has been a small but noticeable decline in results amongst those who come from the most deprived backgrounds. The attainment gap is widening and this needs to stop.
That is why I am now working for Researchers in Schools, a programme that aims to tackle educational inequalities head on by giving state school pupils the same opportunity offered by many schools in the private sector: the chance to learn from graduates with a PhD in their chosen subject.
Researchers in Schools is the world’s only teacher training course that requires applicants to have a PhD in their subject and that leads to Qualified Teacher Status. This is a great career choice for post-graduates who want to pass on the knowledge and passion they have for their subject whilst maintaining an academic profile and continuing to pursue their research. We want pupils in London to benefit from the cutting edge expertise of Brunel post-grads and we are able to offer salaries of up to £40,000, not including contributions from leading businesses, including Nationwide, Goldman Sachs, Shell and Northern Gas Networks, who understand the importance of increasing subject specialist knowledge in our non-selective state schools.
I’ve seen first-hand how Researchers in Schools can make a real difference to the lives of young people when we conducted our pilot in London over the last year. From over 200 applications, we took on 20 post-grads, all with excellent communications and inter-personal skills. They are already making an impact in their schools, often working closely with their corporate sponsors.
I was lucky enough to see Dr Richard Branch who, after a spell at Harvard, is teaching at a school down the road from his old secondary school. I joined him on a trip to GlaxoSmithKline with his class to tour the facilities and meet Formula One driver Jenson Button at a training unit. I saw the excitement on the faces of his pupils, who would have normally struggled to understand the opportunities engineering has to offer had Richard not expanded their horizons.
Likewise, Dr Clara Souza Silva is conducting research into exoplanets and hopes to find a potentially habitable Earth 2.0. She also acts as an education co-ordinator for Twinkle, a UK-led and gender-balanced space mission all whilst teaching at Isleworth and Syon School for Boys.
Researchers in Schools is a win-win offer. Pupils benefit from inspiring, world class teachers whilst PhD graduates get a unique opportunity to take their interests further and inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists and business leaders.. Brunel students have a role to play here and I hope that you will join us in helping tackle educational underachievement whilst enjoying all the other benefits we have to offer.
To find out more and apply online visit www.researchersinschools.org – the closing date for this year is 4 May 2015. Please contact us if you have any questions.