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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

See, B.H., Morris, R., Gorard, S. & Griffin, N. (2017). UK Space Agency Principia Education Programme Report: The reach and spread of its projects. Durham Durham University.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Increasing the number of pupils and young people studying STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) has been a concern for successive UK governments in the last two decades. In 2014 the Prime Minister claimed that maths, science and technology should be a top priority if the UK is to compete in the global economy. He announced a scheme estimated to cost £67 million to train 17,500 maths and physics teachers to a higher level than current training, and attract more postgraduates with offers of university bursaries (DBIS 2014). The ‘science problem’ of too few STEM graduates has also emerged in the EU, US and other developed countries (Lamb et al. 2017, DfE 2015, Smith and Gorard 2011, Brophy et al. 2008, Brett 2007). In response, many bodies including governmental, non-governmental and charitable organisations, as well as representatives of industry, have been actively involved in attempting to increase interest, attainment and participation in STEM subjects at school and beyond. Previous studies have suggested many reasons why certain sub-groups in the population may be underrepresented in STEM subjects at school, and identified factors influencing STEM participation beyond secondary school (Gorard and See 2008, 2009, Tripney et al. 2010, Chowdry et al. 2013).

The aim of the Principia Mission programme is to inspire young people to develop an interest in space and STEM subjects at school and beyond. This report looks at the reach of a programme of 34 projects based on the interest and educational opportunities arising from the astronaut Tim Peake's Principia Mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The long-term impact of the programme is being investigated independently by the University of York. Our concern is to estimate how many young people took part in these 34 projects, and to consider their age, socio-economic status and geographical spread.

Up to March 2017 it is estimated that over 1.6 million children and young people have participated in the educational outreach programme linked to the Principia Mission since it started in 2014. This represents 15% of the total UK school population in any year. And 9,894 schools were involved representing 31% of all schools in the UK.

School of Education