Dr Kate Henderson, Transition Officer
School of Mathematics, Statistics and Physics
Science, Agriculture and Engineering
What did you do?
Introduced an outreach event, WISDOM: Women In Science Doing Outstanding Maths, aimed at inspiring year 9 and 10 girls from local schools to study maths at A-level and beyond.
Who is involved?
Kate Henderson (Maths, Stats and Physics)
Phil Ansell (Maths, Stats and Physics)
Undergraduate Student Ambassadors
Guest speakers both from Maths, Stats and Physics and from external companies/institutions
Year 9/10 Girls and their parents/teachers from the local area
How did you do it?
The WISDOM event was put on in the summer term to fit well with the school exam season finishing and teachers being under less pressure in school and so able to promote the event. Year 9/10 girls were invited to attend the event via our school contacts but were encouraged to attend with their parents, although some schools did bring a group along as a school trip.
The event comprised:
- 2/3 short academic engagement talks. Each year we have at least one talk from a Maths, Stats and Physics lecturer here at Newcastle and the other talks are from academics from other disciplines who use Maths in their work or from industrial professionals.
- A careers talk highlighting potential pathways for those that study maths at A-level and beyond, this does not only focus on those with a maths degree but promotes all numerate degrees/occupations.
- Undergraduate and Postgraduate students delivering biographical profiles and sharing their experiences of studying Maths.
- A careers carousel with stands from a number of schools within the University, e.g. Computer Science, Neuroscience, Psychology, Medicine, Engineering, as well as a number of external contributors, e.g. P&G, AMSP (formerly FMSP), Department of Work and Pensions.
Why did you do it?
The ratio of males to females on Maths and Stats programmes ….
We aim to encourage students to study A-level Maths in the hope that this will in turn increase participation at degree level.
Year 9/10 girls were encouraged to attend with their parents as it is thought that key stakeholders are as important to motivate/inspire as the children themselves as they have a critical influence on young people’s decisions long term.
Our key aims are to:
- Showcase some of the careers that women with a mathematical background have gone into.
- Stimulate the curiosity of year 9/10 girls and pro-mote the study of maths at A-level and beyond.
“I [the teacher] loved the whole evening and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of it. We [the students] thoroughly enjoyed the evening you put on for us.” (Carmel College, Darlington.)
“I really liked going around and talking to the different people during the carousel.” (Yr 9 student.)
“Overall, I found the event very enlightening.” (Student)
“The event was well organised and informative. My daughter and myself were inspired by the guest speakers and I think you have achieved the aim of demonstrating the variety of careers on offer for maths students. It was particularly helpful to know about the range of maths degree options and the links with other disciplines. Many thanks. We hope to attend again next year.” (Yr 9 Parent)
“I liked learning about all of the different types of maths you can do.” (Yr 9 student.)
Does it work?
In the first year that WISDOM ran we had 167 participants in attendance of which 47 were parents/teachers, 4 schools brought groups of students. 24 different schools were represented from a radius of 50 miles, including Darlington, Consett, Yarm and Carlisle. 15 subjects and careers represented by women from academia and industry during the carousel. Numbers were very similar in subsequent events with a dip in 2019 due to a change in the timing of the event.
All feedback on the event was very positive with all participants saying they were likely or very likely to attend similar events in future. ALL feedback rated the event as “Excellent”.
The impact on students’ uptake of A-level/degree Maths won’t be seen until 3-5 years after the first event when students make decisions about A-level subjects and even then it is difficult to measure.