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Teachers inspire young women in science

While latest research suggests around 50,000 female students choose other careers over roles in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, two new recruits to the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College hope to inspire more lady learners to follow their lead.

Lyndsey Bithell and Alice Fitzgerald are both first generation university graduates who have now joined the teaching team at the Sixth Form College, having been inspired to teach chemistry and maths by their own teachers.

Their recruitment is a timely one, as according to research published in October by WISE (www.wisecampaign.org.uk) which aims to encourage more women into the sector, girls outperform boys in GCSE science subjects with equal numbers of both sexes taking these exams, but then just seven per cent of women take university degrees in technology and engineering.

A former City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College pupil herself, Lyndsey, aged 26, says it was her college chemistry teacher who switched her on to the subject.

“He inspired me,” she said, “as he was so positive to be around and was such a nice person who took his time to explain things.

“So many things make sense because of chemistry – it really can answer so many of the ‘whys’ – it’s almost fair to say that if you have a problem and you don’t understand chemistry you can’t get to the bottom of why it’s happened.”

Now a teacher of chemistry and applied science at the college she’s loving her new role, and the opportunity to teach sixth form students in the £30m Staffordshire University Science Centre which opened in 2012.

She said: “It’s great to teach this age group and to be able to offer our science students the opportunity to learn in a university environment with such fantastic facilities.

“That means more of our students can tackle specialist practical work and hopefully it will encourage more of them to go on to university to study science – both male and female.”

Alice, aged 27, from Penkridge, was inspired by her music teacher to go into the profession but only developed her love of maths later at university.

“My first experience of maths is ‘here’s a text book do this’ so it was really unexciting and didn’t necessarily seem relevant.

“Then maths just took over” she says, “I began to love it because every module was like learning a new subject, then my placement school gave me loads of ideas on how to teach it.

“I soon realised the whole universe is made up of maths, even in nature, so now I think it’s fascinating.

“I was attracted to the role at the Sixth Form College because I’m not only course leader for Level 2 maths, but I’m also a pre PGCE mentor for second year students at Keele University.

“I teach in college four days a week and spend a day there working with their students and it’s a great mix and a wonderful opportunity which came about through the Excellence Partnership which aims to recruit maths teachers in Stoke-on-Trent and improve student performance in this sector.

“As a woman in this subject I can only say my own experience has been great. The senior leadership team here are really supportive, I’ve already been on training courses and I already feel I’ve gained so much.”

Anyone interested in studying at the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College can come to their Open Event on February 8th 2017. For more information log on to www.stokesfc.ac.uk or call 01782 848736.

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