PrimarySpace Chair’s Report 2018/2019

Katherine Courtney reflects on the year 2018/2019…

Last year saw us take the first steps on the PrimarySpace journey. It has been a steep, but exciting, learning curve!

With invaluable support from the UK Space Agency, and in partnership with the incredibly capable University of Sussex Widening Participation team, we designed and delivered our first pilot project. We wanted to test a way of helping space businesses engage in high impact STEM outreach with large numbers of teachers and students.We particularly wanted to target primary schools in areas with low HE participation rates.

The project planning and delivery took around eight months. We’re grateful for the support and hard work of all those who contributed their time, expertise and resources. In particular, we owe thanks to: the fantastic STEM ambassadors from Airbus, Reaction Engines and Avanti Communications; the University of Sussex education faculty and students, researchers, staff, volunteers and media team; Burn Marketing; Talent Cupboard, and a few other key individuals (you know who you are).

What did we achieve?

Approximately 1,000 participants spent September 12th, 2018 on the University of Sussex campus – meeting people working in STEM and interacting with exciting technology and science. Media coverage of the event reached an estimated audience of 250,000+ with key messages about the importance of STEM engagement for primary age children. Feedback was uniformly positive and all stakeholders asked to be involved going forward.

The pilot successfully built awareness and understanding of a wide variety of possible space careers. It ignited the interest and imagination of 750+ young people. Children’s comments included “you don’t have to be an astronaut to work in space” and “both women and men can work in space”. One child took the trouble to write a letter to one of the participating company representatives to thank him for “unlocking the world of robotics” for him.

Informal feedback from schools and parents indicated students were still talking about the experience for many weeks afterwards. A sample of children interviewed 6 months after the pilot all remembered things they had learnt and expressed continuing enthusiasm to learn more.

In addition, University of Sussex education faculty adapted their PGCE course to support the pilot and found it worked so well, they decided to keep the changes for future courses.

This video will give you a taste of the day!

And have a look at the Evaluation Report for more details.

So, where next for PrimarySpace?

Possibly the most valuable insights from the pilot came from teachers and teacher trainees. 67% hadn’t pursued any STEM qualifications beyond GCSEs. They fed back that participating in the pilot had given them a broader understanding of STEM careers. Many highlighted how successful the PrimarySpace approach was in challenging perceived barriers, such as gender.

Building on the 2018 pilot, with advice and help from the UK Space Agency, we are now partnering with Newick Teaching School Alliance to design and trial training for primary school teachers. Our aim with this project is to make it easy for them to integrate STEM careers-related learning across all national curriculum topics for all primary age groups. This will help us reach even more teachers and young people in future.

Alongside delivering this project, we’re working on registering PrimarySpace with the Charity Commission for England and Wales, appointing a Board of Trustees and setting up an Advisory Panel to help inform our strategy and plans.

I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made in a short time. 2019/2020 promises to be just as busy and educational – for us, and for the teachers and young people we engage!