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Trinity College to host new STEM SMART initiative

Trinity College is delighted to be among the Cambridge Colleges hosting A-level students taking part in the new scheme – STEM SMART (STEM Subject Mastery and Attainment Raising Tuition). This widening participation initiative will provide enhanced learning, encouragement and mentoring.

The 17-month STEM SMART programme will support students’ studies in science and maths throughout their final year-and-a-half at school, from the second term of Year 12 to their Year 13 A-level examinations. It will help bridge attainment gaps, mitigate educational disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and address the UK’s skills shortage in STEM subjects.

Beginning in January 2022 – following its launch today – the programme also aims to build confidence in talented students who have experienced educational and social disadvantage, and motivate them to apply to study Engineering or Physical Sciences (such as Physics, Chemistry, and Materials Science) at university, including at Cambridge. Many joining the programme will be at schools with little or no experience of sending students to Cambridge. Participants will be invited to a four-day residential in Cambridge and Trinity will be one of the Colleges hosting them.

The programme will support teaching already taking place in schools, providing extra resources such as weekly, real time, online tutorials by Cambridge academics, who will mark work and give students individual feedback. There will be live online motivational lectures, and mentoring support from Cambridge students.

STEM SMART is open to students at non-fee-paying schools from Widening Participation backgrounds. This will include students who live in areas of high deprivation, those who have been eligible for free school meals during their secondary schooling, those who are care-experienced, those at schools unable to offer further mathematics as an A-level, and mature students who are self-studying, among others.

The University is in contact with around 3,000 state schools across the UK about STEM SMART, and aims to enrol around 750 A-level students for the start of the pilot, much of which will be delivered through the Isaac Physics online platform. It will be free to all students taking part, following generous support and funding from the University, Colleges and the Department for Education England.

STEM SMART will also help students who do not wish to apply for undergraduate study at Cambridge to make competitive applications to STEM courses at other universities, with sustained engagement on the programme leading to an award that can be included in their UCAS personal statement as an example of super-curricular activity.

Admissions Tutor for STEM at Trinity, Professor Imre Leader said: ‘We are very excited about STEM START, and we hope that it will make a huge difference to students from backgrounds that are not traditionally Oxbridge.’

Head of Outreach at Trinity, Jon Datta said: ‘At a time when less privileged students most need support, this wide-ranging programme will consolidate classroom knowledge and develop the all-important problem solving skills needed to study physical sciences and engineering. Importantly, STEM START also aims to develop these students’ confidence and belief that they belong and can thrive at highly competitive universities.’

Physics lecturer Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright, who is co-directing the STEM SMART programme, said she herself would have benefited from a similar initiative during her own education. ‘By providing extra subject specific resources that just aren’t available in every school, this pilot will complement students’ classroom learning, improve their problem-solving skills, and help them get better grades.’

The programme continues widening participation progress made by the University in recent years, including the launch of a Foundation Year for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, which from 2022 will offer talented students from backgrounds of educational and social disadvantage a new route to undergraduate study, and the use of UCAS Adjustment to reconsider candidates who exceed expectations in examinations.

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