Read more about a training day on policy evidence and research held at the Royal Society.

Teachers listening to Jo Cox, Education Outreach Manager

I felt it was a real privilege to be able attend this training day at the Royal Society. The building itself is really worth a visit as I had arrived early I was able to look at the exhibits on women scientists. I think it is fair to say I experienced real KS1 “Awe and wonder” as I climbed the stairs passed the Past Presidents board reading all those names like Sir Christopher Wren, Samuel Pepys and Sir Isaac Newton.

Even though it was half term, I was not surprised so many teachers were prepared to give up a day of their holiday to attend. It was great to have an opportunity to work with both secondary and primary teachers from across the country.

The first Keynote talk was by Dr Eugenie Hunsicker, from Loughborough University, a mathematician and statistician. She is recognised for her work supporting diversity in science. She highlighted the fact that primary teachers needed to encourage and give girls opportunities to be risk takers. Primary schools need to offer students a curriculum that expects them to solve problems on their own and encourages them to take risks, even if they might fail. She also encouraged schools to present children more technical texts to support students to update their knowledge. This is particularly relevant to our teaching of Literacy. I feel teachers so often feel pressured for time but if we used our Literacy and Numeracy lessons to support our Science we can create space.

Jo Cox then helped us evaluate the education schemes and resources that support the Education Policy of the society. The most relevant for me were the following:-

The Royal Society Schools Network, Partnership Grants, Brian Cox school experiments, Young Peoples Book Prize, People of Science videos, Science on Stage UK, Summer Science Exhibition and the wealth of information on the Royal Society YouTube channel.

These are excellent resources. I feel I must now find opportunities to promote them when I visit schools in my area.  Having the opportunity during the training to look at and discuss these, helped me feel confident to explain how they can support teachers deliver the science curriculum. For some primary schools it is hard to show the relevance to everyday science and give examples of career paths for girls and boys. However these resources can help every school achieve this prime objective.

After an excellent lunch we were then challenged to think about Machine Learning by Professor Paul Curzon. This proved to be an interesting insight into machine intelligence and the pros and cons for society. All teachers and parents have a duty of care to protect and inform children about how we provide machines with the data that can affect our everyday lives. It had never occurred to me how much of an impact this was having on my life (it is probably my age!). At the end of the session we were challenged to find a way to make Machine Learning accessible to children. Just recently I found myself listening to a Radio 4 Arts programme. Someone has programmed a computer to decide if you are “HIP” enough to enter a special nightclub. The computer scans you and you are either in or out. I suddenly thought bingo! That’s how we make this relevant, and meaningful to children and parents.

Finally Professor Marcel Jaspers took us on a journey to the deep oceans and explained his research into the new animals, plants and bacteria his project is finding to help support the development of key medicines like treatments for cancer and diabetes. He challenged us to think about the global issues surrounding who owns the oceans and who is responsible for their maintenance. There is at present no laws governing the Oceans beyond the National boundaries. There is an interactive map on the Royal Society web site that shows the oceans and some of the resources being explored. This resource will be very useful for Primary teachers as it builds on the children’s curiosity to find out more following “Blue Planet”. I could see my children happily finding out about these strange new creatures and plants then creating their own set of TOP TRUMP cards to play.

I guess even though it was half term for all the teachers attending this excellent CPD even for teachers “Every day was a school day!”


  • Nina Spilsbury

    Nina Spilsbury