STEM Major Award 2020/21 - Presdales School

We were very pleased to award Presdales School our STEM Major Award for 2020/21.  Nikki Albone (Revenue Generation Coordinator) coordinated and submitted a very well-argued bid for two mobile fume cupboards for classrooms and one static one for the science preparation room.

Nikki explained how this bid would form part of a funding drive to improve science facilities overall.  Part of the challenge of writing a strong application is to clearly explain the educational benefits of the project to non-subject specialists (particularly, might I say, if the equipment is not obviously awe-inspiring):

“The fume cupboard is an essential piece of equipment in a school Chemistry Laboratory, enabling teachers and students to safely use chemicals, which would otherwise not be available to them, and allowing demonstrations that inspire the youngest students through to GCSE and A-Level student conducted practicals.”

“Until the planned refurbishment, demonstrations have/are being conducted in fixed fume cupboards, which are sited against a wall. These afford a very restricted view to students in KS3 and KS4 Science classes with their inherent student numbers as well as in our growing KS5 classes.”

“Our refurbishment plan has identified the need for mobile fume cupboards in each Chemistry Classroom, the benefit of which will be significant. The proposed fume cupboards are 1000mm wide with glass rear and side walls. When positioned centrally in a classroom these provide a 360 degree view of the experiments carried out within. With every student able to see the chemistry happening clearly, in real time, right in front of them, they provide a very different experience for teaching and learning and we anticipate that our students will be more engaged in the subject and inspired to pursue it further.”

To further emphasise the benefits, the Presdales bid gave some specific examples:

“When Yr7 students see a copper coin dissolved in nitric acid they will be intrigued by the power of acids. When Yr10 students watch iodine crystals subliming into a purple gas and then re-forming crystals as a layer of glitter they will see the particle theory of matter in action. When Year 12 students observe the dehydration of sucrose to create a growing tower of charcoal they will appreciate how the reaction they have just learned in theory works in practice.”

Nikki also made sure to explain the need for each aspect of her bid e.g.:

“An element of the refurbishment of the Chemistry facility is improvements to the Chemistry Prep Room. Until now this has not contained a fume cupboard and prep work has been carried out in a classroom.”

To address our “numbers and types of pupils benefitting” criteria, Nikki made sure to explain the range of pupils who would benefit from the cupboards e.g:

“Presdales’ Chemistry Department has seen regular growth in A-Level student numbers. 25 students are currently studying for 2022 exams in comparison to just 10 in 2015. Many past pupils have progressed to study Chemistry-related courses at university, including medicine, or taken up apprenticeships or jobs in the chemical or biochemical industry and engineering.”

“At A-Level our students increase their practical skills, regularly dispensing corrosive and volatile substances, such as concentrated acids, from the fume cupboard. Learning to handle these substances safely is a key part of their development as chemists, and prepares them for future study or the workplace.”

Having clearly explained the need for and the benefits of fume cupboard facilities, Nikki also explained the strengths of Presdales’ chosen solution e.g.

“Another benefit of the mobile units is that, as the remaining four science labs within the block are refurbished in coming years, docking stations providing gas and water supply can be added at a small cost thereby significantly increasing the effectiveness of Presdales’ Science teaching facilities, helping both students and teachers.”

In summary, some of the main arguments that gave Presdales the edge in their application were:

  • Excellent submission, comprehensively addressing most of the elements of our published Grant Application Assessment Criteria.
  • Working hard to also secure grants from other sources to enhance related provision
  • Managed to find an excellent value-for-money solution which can be actioned quickly (Nikki and the science department evaluated six quotes, assessing many factors in addition to price).