Rolls Royce Original Blog

October 1, 2016 8:00 am

CTK Aspiring STEM Leaders Programme – Developing and Inspiring our young scientists of the future

This is a technician lead initiative, which proposes that technicians have a vital role to play in enhancing students practical skills and helping them to engage with science beyond the curriculum. We would like to propose that by engaging the skills of a technician team with the support of the whole department, there would be an improvement in students practical skills, performance, level of engagement with enrichment opportunities, work experience, personal research and understanding of how their studies relate to the science in a wider context and STEM related career opportunities. We would like to create a safe space for students to come and learn and practice new skills without any time pressures and an opportunity for them to develop their own research projects.

The project arose as a result of rapidly changing demands of science education, which exposed some weaknesses in students practical and research skills and presented challenges in terms of limited time, budgets, experience and equipment.  We are not alone in these concerns as a variety of reports from universities and STEM employers, report students reaching universities and future workplaces without the required skills and that there are insufficient graduates to meet future demands in the STEM related sector.

The Rolls Royce Science Prize allows us the funding to address some of these challenges at a school level, through the purchase of superior equipment, to develop links with universities and other STEM outreach organisations, industry, to look at meeting the demands of the curriculum in creative ways, develop students skills through workshops, talks and work experience opportunities.  We wish to encourage students to engage with their own personal research interests in a way that would be recognised by future employers, such as the CREST scheme, and to develop a student learning hub, which will help them to identify work experience opportunities, latest research sites and STEM enhancement opportunities.  We will be working primarily with our A level students in the first year, but with the intention that we would develop a sustainable structure which could be cascaded down to lower year groups and raise the level of aspiration and attainment through the school.  We hope that our learning hub could be used by other schools as a model of best practice, in developing their own initiatives.  Our school online blog is available on for further updates and more photographs of our project so far.

The Team is as follows:

My name is Gillian James. I am the Project Lead and Senior Science Technician at Christ the King Voluntary Academy.  My passion is to enthuse and equip young people in the practical aspects of science and to assist them in gaining an understanding of how science relates to the real world.  I have a BSc in Applied Biology, and a wide range of post graduation experience including business research and lifecycle analysis in the packaging industry. I have been working with children and young people in a variety of settings for many years.  The role I will play in the project is Project Coordinator, techniques training, Innovators Workshop Lead and mentor for student research projects and CREST awards. In addition to this I will develop the student STEM outreach programme by building partnerships with external STEM organisations and inviting them to come and work with our students in a variety of ways.

Adam Blazewicz-Bell is Science Director of Learning at Christ the King Catholic Voluntary Academy. Adam’s love of Chemistry began at college back in 1997.  The subject grew on  him and he decided to further his studies in science by doing a degree in Chemistry at the University of Manchester, later going on to study a masters in Chemistry, specialising in advanced organic chemistry.  The research, practical and investigative skills he developed at university are integral in delivering lessons and teaching students across all age ranges in secondary education.  Now in his 12th year of teaching, he strives to generate excitement and enthusiasm amongst students when doing investivative work and he is always looking for novel ways of demonstrating scientific theory using practical approaches. The role Adam will play in the project is Chemistry advisor and coordinator, and student mentor.

Dr. Sarah Lissenden-Crook is the Assistant Director of Learning in the science faculty, with responsibility for the Key Stage 3 curriculum.  Sarah has a degree in Biochemistry with Molecular and Cell Biology and a PhD in Biosciences from Birmingham University.  She consequently has a keen interest in science and teaches Biology and Chemistry to A level.  Sarah is a highly enthusiastic teacher with 13 years experience in the classroom and is passionate about the delivery of lessons that enthuse and inspire our students, particularly in the Biological sciences.  Sarah has taken the lead in rewriting the KS3 curriculum to fit in line with the new GCSE and A level specifications at Christ the King, so that there is a greater emphasis on the practical aspects of science. The role Sarah will take in the project is Biology advisor and coordinator, and student mentor.

Joseph Mellor is in his second year of teaching and is a Teacher of Physics for all secondary key stages, predominately key stage 4 and 5. Joseph has a First Class BSc Honours Degree in Physics and is a qualified teacher of both Physics and Mathematics. He was also one of the 100 scholars that were awarded the IOP Teacher Training Scholarship for his teacher training year. At the age of 25, he shows a real youthful passion for his subject and is enthusiastic in the way he delivers his physics lessons, regularly using quirky demonstrations and practicals in order to motivate and engage the students in his classroom. Joe will be the Physics advisor and coordinator, and student mentor.

Stacey Wheeler is the Senior Science Technician at Oakwood Academy and has been a  technician for just over 6 years in two secondary schools. Her focus is on the extra curricular side of science, to enthuse students and show them that there is more than just classroom science. She  has recently been working with Real World Science officers to create learning labs in Wollaton Hall, which will help other schools engage with science beyond the classroom. She has an NVQ level 3 in her current role and is just reaching the end of the STACs course with the Science Learning Centre and York University. She has experience working up to A level and working one to one with specific groups and their projects. She runs the CREST Awards in her current school where she currently has 6 Bronze and 11 Silver CREST students. She plans Science based trips and clubs for the school and special events such as British Science Week, and ensures these are well planned and fun filled for the students taking part. This is on top of her usual work as Senior Science Technician at Oakwood Academy in Nottingham. In Nottingham and the surrounding area she runs a technician network of 41 schools and over 100 technicians, where we meet for CPD training and to help each other out with any questions or practicals we are stuck on.  She has had positive feedback about this and the meetings are improving each time. Stacey will assist in us starting the CREST awards in our school and will help coordinate a Forensics Day.

Emma Chambers is a Science Technician at Christ the King CVA and has long been passionate about engaging young people in the world of science.  Emma has a BSc (Hons) in Forensic Biology from the University of Portsmouth and has a particular interest in the study of DNA, which she incorporated into her final year research project.  Whilst at university, Emma took part in the Student Associate Scheme, which provided invaluable experience of teaching Biology at KS3 & 4, and this made her realise that her future lay in working with, and on behalf of young people in a science based setting.  Since leaving university Emma has worked for Mad Science, a company that presents science clubs and workshops to KS1 and 2, and she also volunteered for many years in Nottingham based “Science on Stage”.  This was a yearly project that combined music, dance and many topics covering Biology, Chemistry and Physics to engage and enthrall pupils of all ages and academic ability, and Emma found working with the children every year to be hugely rewarding and worthwhile.  Emma will be helping me to coordinate the project, run technique workshops, support work experience students and will work with Stacey to implement the forensics day.