ASE field officer Cerian Angharad recognised in Queen’s new year honours

Here at the ASE, we all recognise the huge impact that our members and our team are making to the cause of excellence in science education every day – and never get tired of celebrating that fact. But while our heroes are not exactly unsung, when their work is recognised at the highest level it really is time to shout it from the rooftops…  So get ready for some hollering as we are delighted to be able share the news that one of our tireless field officers, Cerian Angharad, has been awarded an MBE in the 2020 Queen’s New Year Honours List!

No doubt known to many of you personally, Cerian is of our hardest working, and longest standing, team members, and we hope that everyone associated with the ASE will join us in offering her the heartiest of congratulations.

“I couldn’t believe it at first – and had to re-read the letter several times for the news to sink in! But I’m absolutely thrilled to receive the award,” said Cerian. “It’s a huge honour to be recognised for the promotion of science and for the engagement of young people.”

The proud mother of two girls spent the first 15 years of her career in education as a frontline science teacher, her first role coming in Pontypool in 1994 before taking a head-of-physics role at a Blackwood school in Caerphilly from 1998. When she stepped back from front-line teaching in 2010, her passion for the promotion of quality science education took a different direction via roles with both us at the ASE and the Institute of Physics – along with the setting up of her own education consultancy See Science.

"I really believe that all children can do something in STEM, and get something out of it… whatever their ability. Teaching science doesn’t have to be just about getting a C grade – it can be about so much more"

It all adds up to more than 25 years of supporting quality education in Wales, a commitment inspired by a passion to make a difference and genuine belief in utilising the special power of science to inspire children.

“I really believe that all children can do something in STEM, and get something out of it… whatever their ability. Teaching science doesn’t have to be just about getting a C grade – it can be about so much more,” said Cerian. “I would try all kinds of things – take them to lectures, get people to come into school, that kind of thing. Many of our kids would never have travelled far from where they lived, so  it was really about giving them the opportunity to widen their horizons.

“For example, in 2000 a group of my pupil won a two-week trip to NASA (which I found about via the ASE!) in America. We went around all of the NASA sites – Houston, Florida, San Francisco – and they got to meet astronauts, scientists… even the director of NASA himself. “

Another key driver for Cerian was her passion for her native language, and a desire to enable her pupils to discover and understand science through the medium of Welsh.

“It was very important to me, as there were so few schools offering science in the Welsh language. I come from a completely Welsh background, but I had to do my science learning at school through the medium of English,” she explained. “When I started in teaching, in South Wales, schools were finally starting to offer science through the medium of Welsh – but there were so few resources that would help you teach the subject in our language, there were only a couple of text books.

“It’s not like it is now, where as a teacher you can go on Times Ed or Google and pick up what you want – we didn’t have that. So a group of us in different schools came together to do something about it. We would meet up and create our own science resources.”

“I like to think it’s a reflection of all of the work both I and the teams I work with have put in. It’s not something that one person can do – it’s just as much about the volunteers who put in their time too."

Now she is no longer in the classroom, Cerian has been able to turn that drive to bring teachers together and generate change in new directions, such as her impressive success in re-invigorating the STEM ambassador programme in Wales.

“When I took over STEM ambassador programme just under 10 years ago we had about 200 registered volunteers – now we have over 2,500. The big issue used to be about recruitment, how do we get into these big companies? But that’s not an issue any more as these companies are now keen to be a part of the programme.”

Understandably delighted by the recognition of her work, Cerian is also keen to share the credit: “I like to think it’s a reflection of all of the work both I and the teams I work with have put in. It’s not something that one person can do – it’s just as much about the volunteers who put in their time too. I owe a massive debt of gratitude to colleagues at the ASE who have worked with me to provide programmes of support for anyone involved in science education in schools.

“These people have taught me a huge amount by sharing their knowledge and expertise.  You’ve got people like Neville Evans and Anne Goldsworthy who can get involved and help make things happen. It’s a small community – the science education community in Wales – but they have been brilliant.”