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Partnership Grants: Eligibility and judging criteria

Partnership Grants are intended specifically to enable students to carry out investigative projects in science, technology, engineering, computing or mathematics in partnership with a practising STEM professional. Please carefully check the eligibility criteria and make sure that you understand how the application is judged. Applications will be rejected at Stage 1 if all of these criteria are not met in full. 


The Partnership Grants scheme is open to any UK primary or secondary school in partnership with a practising STEM professional. To be eligible for the scheme, projects must satisfy the following criteria:

  • The students involved in the project must be between 5 and 18. Reception years are eligible if the project is run in conjunction with other age groups. Sixth form and further education colleges are eligible, provided the students involved in the project are aged under 19.
  • The lead applicant for the project must be the school partner but the STEM partner should be involved in the application process. 
  • Both partners may only apply for one Partnership Grant per application round. 
  • The title of the project must be a question and there must be clear evidence of an investigative approach that students will undertake. 
  • Any grant awarded goes to the school and the money must be paid directly into a school bank account. Equipment purchased through the grant must be retained by the school and clear explanations must be provided on the legacy of equipment that takes up a large proportion of the grant.
  • The grant cannot be used to fund excessive travel costs.
  • Funding for staff cover is generally ineligible within the Partnership Grants scheme. However, if the success of the project will be compromised without this support, the applicant can attach a supporting letter from the Head Teacher stating that cover costs (up to a maximum of £600) are being requested. A clear rationale will need to be given and invoices for staff cover costs will need to be evidenced throughout the project.
  • Grants can only be made to schools within the UK, and projects should be carried out within the UK. If links to schools in other countries are part of the project these should be remote links by e-mail, websites etc.
  • Projects must demonstrate an appropriate level of innovation and therefore not be part of continuous project schemes and established outreach programmes.
  • The start date for the application must be for a date in the following academic year. 
  • Previous recipients of a Partnership Grant may apply for further funding, as long as the new application is made one year or more after the previous application. All applicants must ensure that the new project is not a simple extension of the previous one and must involve a new investigation. Note that we are not able to fund further projects until we have received all reporting and evaluation documents from the original project.
  • Both partners fulfil the eligibility, as detailed in the section below. 
  • If your project includes components that rely on conducting experiments involving humans or animals, you will need to show consideration of the ethics of your project in your application. Please consult the ethical research guide by the Wellcome Trust, ‘Ensuring your research is ethical’, for support and guidance.

Project partners

School partners are the main contacts as all grants are paid direct to participating schools. However, STEM partners may be contacted by the Royal Society during and after the project.

The lead applicant on the application must be the school partner. Anyone within a school may apply as the School partner, this includes technicians and those with responsibility for Gifted and Talented or outreach, for example, and they do not need to be a STEM teacher. It is important that if the School partner does not teach STEM or the students involved, they should make it clear how they will be able to ensure delivery of the project.

The STEM partner must be a current practising STEM professional. The following STEM professionals are also not eligible for the scheme: fellow teachers, teacher trainers or others from education institutions, retired STEM Ambassadors and those whose main role is in the provision of scientific outreach or education.

Please be aware that we will also require the details for a second member of staff from the school who will be able to take over the running of the project and/or support the project in any circumstance where the lead applicant is no longer able to commit to the project. These details will be required in stage 2 of the application. 

Judging criteria

To ensure all applications are judged fairly and thoroughly, each one is allocated to at least two members of the Partnership Grants Allocating Panel. The decision of the Panel is final.

The Partnership Grants Allocating Panel make grant decisions according to the below judging criteria. Please pay close attention to the criteria and in your application include all necessary information to show that each of these criteria are fulfilled. 

  • The STEM partner must have significant involvement in the project and with the students.
  • The project must be original to the pupils and involve research and/or investigation of an aspect of science, technology, engineering or mathematics. Topics should be exciting, imaginative and relevant to the lives of the pupils involved, and to society as a whole.
  • The project should clearly demonstrate a sound use of scientific methodology and/or mathematical skills.
  • The project must encompass the core values of partnership, creativity and maximum benefit to pupils.
  • The projects should involve pupils as actively as possible so they gain skills and understanding.
  • The project should aim to involve as many pupils as appropriate to the project.
  • The project must provide clear benefits for the pupils that they could not obtain without the funds from the Partnership Grant.
  • The project should have long-term, sustainable benefits, to pupils, teachers, STEM professionals and the school. The panel will look for evidence that processes will be put in place to ensure that at least part of the project can be extended beyond the funding period.
  • Proposed equipment and materials must be necessary and appropriate for the project, and must not be normally covered by the school budget, nor be expected to be provided for the normal curriculum in a school of your type.
  • When a single piece of equipment makes up the majority of the project costs, it must be shown to be integral and vital to the project and have a clear legacy beyond the lifetime of the project. 
  • There should be a structure in place for disseminating the outcomes of the project as widely as possible, eg throughout the school, to parents and to the wider community.
  • Sustainability.

Restrictions on funding

The following items cannot be funded by a Partnership Grant:

  • consultancy or advisor fees for scientists, engineers, or freelance science communicators.
  • bought-in workshops from outreach providers.
  • the purchase of pre-prepared kits (eg Lego kits, eco cars or rocket-boats), unless they are to be used in a wider investigation, i.e. they are part of a project which clearly demonstrates a sound use of scientific methodology.
  • the purchase of prizes, refreshments, services (eg printing) and ICT equipment unless shown to be integral and vital to the project and at a reasonable cost.
  • educational research or development materials.
  • normal running costs or equipment of a school science/technology department.
  • fees for entry into other schemes such as CREST or EES.
  • teachers based in educational establishments outside the UK.
  • projects that take place outside of the UK, or travel overseas.

The following items can be funded but should not represent a significant portion of the grant:

  • travel expenses for students. If you do include travel costs in your application, please indicate what the travel will add to the project and why you think it is relevant to the project.
  • supply cover for teachers. Funding for staff cover is generally ineligible within the Partnership Grants scheme. However if the success of the project will be compromised without this support the applicant can attach a supporting letter from the Head Teacher stating that cover costs (up to a maximum of £600) are being requested. A clear rationale will need to be given and invoices for staff cover costs will need to be evidenced throughout the project.
  • travel or hospitality costs for partners will be considered, although many institutes and industrial concerns will pay employees' expenses, so please check first as we will require claims for such costs to be justified.

Please note that travel expenses must be kept to a minimum and not constitute more than 50% of the total cost. Projects must be sustainable in order for them to be repeated in the future, this cannot be done if the majority of funding is on travel.

Low priority projects include those which:

  • last for a short time (e.g. a few weeks) with limited contact with the STEM partner;
  • focus only on the National Curriculum and exam results targets;
  • are mainly concerned with building a pond, garden, observatory or other similar structure; and
  • are STEM communication projects, such as film-making.
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