Making science accessible for all, even on a tight school budget

Marking British Science Week, Niymet McCann explains how her schools is making the most of available support to ensure all learners can see and access a future in science

Marking British Science Week, Niymet McCann explains how her schools is making the most of available support to ensure all learners can see and access a future in science

16 Mar 2023, 10:00

I have been a science teacher for many years now and have found the three biggest barriers to engagement with the subject are representation, literacy and social background.

To fully engage and develop a love for a subject, you must feel included. Yet the lack of representation and diversity within the science curriculum can often stop students in their tracks. In addition to this challenge, the social and economic factors in a student’s life can lead to disadvantage in literacy skills and difficulties accessing resources and help at home. All these obstacles are exacerbated by the increasing financial pressures that schools and families face today.

As educators, we must understand these challenges and respond appropriately. We cannot only be teachers of our wonderful subject, but teachers of literacy who engage with the whole school community, including parents and carers.

For us, as an inner-city school serving a community of students from under-represented backgrounds, it is incredibly important that we tackle representation head-on, diversify the curriculum and make science more inclusive.

Improving representation

The national curriculum focuses on discoveries by Western scientists, often from white, middle- or upper-class backgrounds. This leaves many of our students feeling excluded and that science isn’t for someone ‘like them’. To combat this, we are explicitly teaching about scientists from ethnic minority backgrounds who have contributed to the field, detailing their research and scientific progress. This has helped our students relate to the learning and visualise a career in the field.

Running extra-curricular activities also provides opportunities for students to see themselves in science. For example, our key stage 3 science club has proved highly popular and effective in developing curious and inquisitive students. Last year, students built Community Air Pollution Sensors (CAPS) to analyse pollution levels in their local area. It was such an engaging project that the framework has been implemented within our key stage 3 curriculum for all students to enjoy.

Making science relevant

In classroom practice and beyond, it is important that we bring students’ own experiences to the table and get them connecting their learning to the wider world. This helps them situate science within their own context and recognise how it’s relevant to them.

For example, we applied and were awarded a British Science Week kickstart grant last year, which provides funding for schools to run inspiring STEM-related activities and projects. With this funding, we were able to take our year 7 students to visit Kew Gardens – somewhere many of our students had never visited – to participate in a workshop.

We then challenged students to design a bio-diverse rooftop garden in class during British Science Week. The kickstart grant supported the purchase of gardening equipment and plants for the rooftop garden, ensuring that the work could continue beyond the project timeline. Our gardening club now meets every Thursday to maintain this wonderful space for everyone to enjoy.

Many of our students live in flats with little or no access to gardens and have limited funds to go on scientific and cultural excursions, so this trip and the design project have provided opportunities that otherwise would not be available. I would encourage any teachers in a similar context to explore the different grants and support available and take advantage where they can.

Science on a budget

There are many cost-saving strategies that my team has put in place, such as the use of high-quality online practical simulations to carry out investigations which may not be feasible in the classroom. We’ve also used videos from science documentaries to illustrate places which may not be accessible to our students, and we prioritise ensuring that all students receive revision books and online materials to support home learning, removing any financial strain for parents.

Finally, we are also a member of the CREST Awards under-represented audience network, run by the British Science Association. This provides us with free access to student-led project resources as well as opportunities to network with and learn best practice from schools in similar circumstances.

We are excited to continue celebrating diversity within science and finding high-impact, cost-effective ways to engage and excite our students. Well-supported teachers will always adapt; it is what we do best. And with the current cost-of-living crisis, it’s crucial we continue to make our subject more accessible for all our students.

More from this theme


NFER: Bursaries could help non-white teachers become heads

Diversity report finds four times as many teachers of colour would need to be promoted to heads for workforce...

Lucas Cumiskey

Diversity progress stalls among largest trust CEO roles

Schools Week diversity audit finds rate of women leaders has flatlined, but more BAME CEOs

Jack Dyson


Biggest academy trust turns to NFL for inspiration in diversity drive

Trusts are hiring diversity specialists and challenging “Eurocentric" history, revamping their policies, curriculum and "overwhelmingly white" leadership teams.

Tom Belger

Zahawi calls on schools to increase diversity of governors

Education secretary highlights ‘vital’ need for change

James Carr

Academy CEO diversity audit: More women bosses, but work to do

Campaigners have offered a 'cautious welcome', but note there is room for huge improvement

James Carr

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *