Submission from Space Connections
1. Space Connections is an initiative of
Yorkshire Forward, the Regional Development Agency for Yorkshire
and the Humber. Space Connections was set up to bring coherence
across the educational uses of space activity and to maximise
the impact that space can have on the Science, Technology, Engineering
and Maths (STEM) curriculum and on the wider curriculum. It was
established as a response to the severe shortage of young people
pursuing the STEM subjects, with the specific purpose of attracting
more young people into further study and careers in these areasan
essential requirement for the future competitiveness of the UK.
2. ESA and Yorkshire Forward have exchanged
letters of agreement by which Space Connections is leading on
the establishment across the UK of a pattern of ESERO (European
Space Education Resource Office) contact points. An ESERO office
is already established in the Netherlands, and those in Belgium
and Spain are imminent.
3. BNSC and Yorkshire Forward are exchanging
letters of agreement by which Space Connections will initiate
the development of more effective coordination of space education
activities in the United Kingdom.
4. We believe that space motivates young
people and attracts them towards science and technology. There
is substantial anecdotal and limited quantitative evidence for
this assertion. Space Connections, jointly with the British National
Space Centre (BNSC), the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research
Council (PPARC) and EADS Astrium, recently funded a study
under the Case for Space activity to gather together evidence
under a number of key questions, each now considered in turn:
5. Of 46 teachers and others surveyed, all
were enthusiastic about the use of the space theme on young people's
learning, including its effect on behaviour, motivation and achievement.
6. The most consistent example of the application
of space is that of Careers Scotland who make extensive use of
space activity through the Scottish Space School across the full
5-18 age range. A tracking system has produced specific evidence
of the impact of space on young people's educational and career
decisions. Of 53 young people on last year's Space School, 25
said the experience had directly influenced their choice of a
science or engineering course and a further 12 had their earlier
decision to do so confirmed. Additional benefits included increased
confidence, enhanced teamworking and problem solving capabilities
and new insight into potential careers.
7. As one example, Dyffryn High School in
Wales has seen a dramatic increase in the number of pupils opting
to do triple science at GCSE through the use of space activity.
8. Over a 10 year period Anu Ojha, an Advanced
Skills Teacher of Physics at Perry Barr High School, Birmingham,
has systematically recorded the impact of space-related ideas
on pupils' educational outcomes. His data shows that the space
context has had significant measurable impact on achievement,
often on whole classes. Students have regularly achieved better
than predicted grades at GCSE and A-level, and increased numbers
have progressed on to physics and related courses at University.
9. In higher education, there is evidence
that space themes increase the attractiveness of physics degree
courses. Salford University report considerably larger numbers
opting for the Physics with Space Technology programme than for
traditional physics courses. The intake at the University of Leicester
is bucking the trend towards decline in physics numbers; again
attributed specifically to their involvement with space activity.
UCAS figures show that of all acceptances on to engineering first
degrees, only those for Aerospace Engineering have shown a consistent
growth over the last ten years.
10. We surveyed 3,000 members of the Institute
of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) of whom 498 responded. When asked
how significant space was as a factor in influencing their own
education and career decisions:
38% said that space was a significant
factor in influencing their subject choices at school;
35% said that space was a significant
factor in influencing their further and higher education choices;
27% said that space was a significant
factor in influencing their career choices.
11. When the engineers were asked whether
they thought space influenced young people at school (moderate
influence or higher):
80% thought that space influenced
the motivation of young people; and
78% thought space influenced
young people towards Science, Engineering and Technology subjects.
12. Professor Stephen Donnelly, Dean of
the Faculty of Computing, Science and Engineering, Salford University,
says: "My career choice was greatly influenced by following
the coverage of the moon landings in the 1960s. I am absolutely
convinced that by giving space activity in the school science
curriculum a higher profile it is possible to influence young
people today into making educational and career choices that will
significantly boost the numbers taking up science and engineering
13. Space scores over most other themes
on several counts. It is a multi-faceted topic with sufficient
aspects of inherent interest to offer appeal to different ages
and abilities and to boys and girls; there is a band of very enthusiastic
teachers; there are exciting large scale resources; it relates
to many unanswered questions, it offers opportunities to push
forward technological barriers.
14. In addition to its scientific basis,
space has humanitarian, global, environmental and enterprise dimensions,
it crosses one spectrum from aero-space to astro-space, and another
from ethical across to technological issues. No other theme presents
such a range of opportunities to interest, motivate, and influence
15. When the approx. 500 mechanical engineers
in our IMechE survey asked if they could think of another topic
as effective as space in interesting young people in science,
engineering and technology, 45 named "transportation"
and 23 named "buildings and structures". No other topic
had significant mention.
16. As well as the specific contribution
made to science education, it should be borne in mind that space
is extensively used in the contexts of environmental education
and enterprise activity. It can fairly be claimed that no other
topic makes such a wide-ranging contribution to the curriculum.
THE UK SPACE
17. Our survey showed low awareness among
young people of the nature and extent of the UK Space industry.
Primary school children generally know of only one space-related
career, namely being an astronaut. Secondary school children generally
believe that to work in the space industry you have to go to America.
Careers information, advice and guidance are inadequate.
18. Both our surveys (general and IMechE)
demonstrated that those in the industry are concerned not only
about the number of new recruits, but about their quality. Responses
to the question on the skills issues facing young recruits included:
declining GCSE and A-level standards;
poor mathematical skills;
little experience of team working;
lack of commercial awareness;
lack of fundamental work ethic;
low awareness of how things
19. Continued and increased investment in
space, creating a dynamic and vibrant space industry, capitalises
these benefits to all our young people and makes a significant
contribution to recruitment into and general awareness of the
20. Space is a unique theme within education.
It contributes directly to science, enterprise and environmental
education. Its appeal is across all ages and to both genders.
Quantitative evidence linking involvement with space activity
to achievement in science is limited but persuasive.
Space Connections is responsible for establishing
the pattern of European Space Education Resource Offices across
the UK, and for establishing coherence across space education
activities in the UK.
We have amassed evidence, including quantitative
evidence, that space motivates young people and attracts them
towards the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and
mathematics). A survey of teachers and others, and a second survey
of members of the IMechE (Institute of Mechanical Engineers) have
confirmed this view.
The UK Space industry is a highly skilled and
highly productive industry, but awareness of it is low among young
people. Space appeals to all ages and both genders, contributing
significantly to science, enterprise and environmental education.
Enhanced investment in UK space is vital to capitalise on the
unique contribution that space makes to education.
38 Spencer, P and Hulbert, G: The Education And
Skills Case for Space (BNSC, EADS Astrium, PPARC and Space
Connections; June 2006). Back