BSW: Tuesday 22/03

Whether it be by foot, bicycle, overland, tube and taxi, today I covered over 45 miles of Greater London- all in the name of science.

Hampstead > Hampton Court House

Today I went all Georgian/ Tudor and did some science in KT8. Hampton Court House is one of the most sensationally beautiful schools I’ve ever visited. The kids are bright and confident and alongside having school grounds in a national park have lashing of ‘science capital’. When I asked whether people knew what scientists actually do, I got a better answer than I’ve ever given: they struggle for grants, sit in an office which is a mirror-image of their next-door neighbours and they barely enter a lab. Perhaps they go in to R&D/ industry.

Hampton Court House > Careers Fair, St. George’s Catholic School

W9 feels worlds away from Hampton Court House, especially when there’s a sign outside saying that the former headmaster gave his life to save a pupil. I was helping to run a careers stand for years 9 and 10, which basically reaffirmed all my concerns about young people engaging with STEM careers. These 14/15 year olds invariably wanted to run their own businesses, become pop stars and earn massive amounts of money- but they outright refuse to study Maths or Science at A-Level. Of course, I’m generalising, and some students came engaged with engineering- but an awful lot didn’t. I’ve noticed a previous ‘careers fairs’ events having something that’s not a prospectus or free pen gets people over to your table so went for a bowl of vanishing water pearls. I made the critical error of having very visible chocolates on my table, which lead to a lot of awkward shuffling and trying to distract me whilst I imparted my great wisdom on A-Level choices. One young man told me he wanted to study ‘medical’ at university but was adamant he wanted a high starting salary. Very few people could name a single branch of engineering, let alone the ten on offer at Imperial College. Credit to the organisers: there were plenty of universities and employment sectors represented. Minus points- giving them a branded plastic bag like they were at a conference- it led to a Big Bang mentality that securing the flyers and hand-outs would confirm attending the event.

Careers Fair, St. George’s Catholic School > High Speed Rail Report Launch, Thames Pavilion, Houses of Parliament

When someone says, “Do you to go to the launch of an industry report on high speed rail?”, you’ll likely be thinking ‘No‘. When someone says, you’re invited to an early evening drinks reception in the Thames Pavilion at the Houses of Parliament, your mind might be swayed. On Tuesday night I attended the launch of High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Report Reception. I went straight from an academy school in Kilburn, where I doubt many crusts were cut off sandwiches, to the Thames Pavilion where there are cakes so dainty I think a ballerina might feint. The report acts to clarify the role of the government and the railway, plan HS2 based on customer needs and explores new ways for an increase in numbers on the railway. They’re trying to improve diversity across Network Rail, which is why they invite WISE to events like this. You can read the report here and there are some good HS2 stats here.

Thames Pavilion > Q&A w/ Shadow Science Minister, Committee Room 5, Houses of Parliament

The most spontaneous part of my day was by far the most disappointing: a Q&A with the Shadow Science Minister, Yvonne Fovargue. I guess in my naïve understanding of parliament the people representing science and engineering would be passionate about science or engineering, but instead Labour have an English graduate who’s much more in to rhetoric than hard fact- we just don’t do science justice in this country. The Q&A was arranged by Imperial legend, Ben Fernando, and Scientists for Labour. I’m all for Labour. I’m also incredibly opinionated, which probably doesn’t marry to well with being a ‘shadow’ anything. When you’re a shadow minister you’ve got a ridiculously broad remit of expertise: Yvonne covers science, industry, business, skills, commerce- all without a researcher or proper financial support. So it’s not surprising they can’t be as clued up as I’d expect- but it’s also sad. Take apprenticeships: they’re death with by both industry/ science and education, neither of whom want to invest ‘their own pot of money’ and without any clear point of contact. The inherent cross-over of modern life means it doesn’t make sense to talk about clearly defined roles any more (much like physics and chemistry can be as inter-disciplinary as we make them). We’re all against leaving the EU- it’s actually one of the most important things in the most important elections to make yourself heard in. UK Science is staying with the EU (as backed by 93 % of UK provosts), but, so is educating our careers advisors and teachers to best prepare the next generation of scientists. As conversation turned slightly more sour (a discussion over voting reform and Yvonne’s support of Trident), our science cohorts

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