Jan 2019 News

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Lab placements available for A-level students from low-income backgrounds

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Published on 4 January 2019

A-level students from low-income backgrounds can apply for lab placements this summer. Image courtesy of @Lucy Kissick

A scheme offering A-level students from low-income backgrounds lab placements and careers coaching is set to expand into Exeter.

The scheme, which has a remarkable record in helping students gain top university places, has just been approved by Exeter City Council and students can start applying from Monday (7 January).

For the scheme, students from disadvantaged backgrounds (on free school meals or whose parents do not have a degree) will be matched up with local scientists and researchers for the 2-week lab placements over the summer break. They will also be invited to attend skills and careers workshops.

Scheme organisers are currently in talks with Exeter University and Exeter Science Park to set up the placements which will start in summer 2019.

The programme aims to widen access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) degrees and careers – which on average are more stable and more highly paid than other fields.

Evaluation of the scheme has found that 81% of In2Science students go on to study at university, with 46% going on to a top university. In the UK overall, only 11% of students from low-income backgrounds go to a top university.

Exeter is the first city outside of the South East to confirm it will run the scheme. Despite huge interest in the scheme across the UK (over 2000 A-level students apply each year), until now the scheme has had to turn away students who don’t live in the South East, as it hasn’t had the necessary funding. All placements have taken place in London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Now, with new funding from the charity NESTA and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport the scheme is branching out beyond these cities.

Exeter City Council said the In2ScienceUK programme will be good for students and good for local businesses.

Councillor Rachel Sutton, Lead Councillor for Economy and Culture, said:“Exeter City Council is pleased to be working with in2scienceUK to bring their programme to Exeter. This provides a great opportunity for young people from less advantaged backgrounds to gain access to placements in our growing science sectors, equipping them with a great understanding of the opportunities available to them. Programmes like this enable business in Exeter to showcase themselves to their potential future workforce, enabling Exeter to retain its talent and support the local economy.”

The In2ScienceUK scheme is the brainchild of Dr Rebecca McKelvey, who was a Teach First teacher and Head of Science at a school in East London for four years. Rebecca said:“We’re excited that our new funding is allowing us to bring the scheme to Exeter. We want students across the country – not just those in the South East – to benefit from the programme, to give them the chance to get into rewarding careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Students can apply for a place from 7 January 2019. They can register their interest in the meantime via the In2Science website.

As well as equalising access to STEM degrees and careers for students, scheme organisers hope it will make STEM fields more diverse. At the moment only 15% of scientists and 9% of life science professionals are from working class backgrounds.

Getting more students into STEM fields will also be good for the UK economy. At present, there is a 40,000 annual deficit of STEM workers in the UK due to a skills shortage.

 

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