Reaching for the stars with a Silver Space Education Award

Withington has joined a select group of 45 primary and secondary schools in the UK to receive a Silver Space Education Quality Mark (SEQM) Award and is one of only six schools in the North West to have earned the accolade.

The SEQM award scheme, run by the European Space Education Resources Office in the UK (ESERO-UK), offers a Bronze, Silver and Gold award. Achieving the Silver Award, which is valid for three years, requires a school to demonstrate that they have fully integrated space themes across their curriculum, with a focus on STEM subjects.

“This award comes as a result of an outstanding effort on the part of a number of academic departments across the school, with the lead taken by our Physics department,” explains Headmistress, Mrs Sarah Haslam.

“Participating in this Award has clearly demonstrated how incorporating space education in the classroom and beyond has enriched the learning experience of our pupils. We are delighted to receive the Silver Award in recognition of the significant time, energy and enthusiasm invested by our staff.”

Mr Tom Lyons, the ESERO-UK Teacher Fellow who works with teachers to use space as a context in STEM subjects from primary up to post-16, said: “ESERO-UK are proud to be able to award Withington Girls’ School with a Silver Space Education Quality Mark Award.  Withington have shown that using space as a context, both in lessons and in extra-curricular activities, has been inspirational for students of all ages.  The space sector in the UK is growing rapidly and, as with many of the STEM careers, females are underrepresented.  We hope that some of the girls at Withington will go on to be space scientists and engineers in the future.”

The Silver Award was earned through evidence of a wide range of space-themed activities across both the Junior and Senior sections of the school. “We adopted a strategic approach to the implementation of space education at both a school and departmental level, even seeking to extend the benefits to other school pupils within our local community,” says Mrs Haslam, adding that the Withington SHiNE Saturday morning Science programme for Year 5 & 6 pupils from local primary schools included a space-themed topic.

Highlights of how space education was incorporated into life at Withington over the past academic year included a visit and talk by Suzie Imber, winner of the BBC’s Astronaut – Have you got what it takes?; a ‘Moon Week’ that included the opportunity for pupils across the school to examine samples of lunar rock brought back to Earth by Apollo astronauts as well as to participate in Moon-themed Art and English lessons; learning about the planets and constellations through visits to a Star Dome (located in the school gymnasium) and Jodrell Bank; and a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry to see Tim Peake’s Soyuz Capsule.

Withington hosted a spaced-themed Physics Olympiad this month attended by teams of Year 9 pupils from three local schools and, looking ahead, a group of 30 pupils from Year 9 to 11 will have the opportunity to visit NASA’s Johnson Space Centre in Houston, USA, for a week-long STEM programme in the summer holidays.