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  4. ASPIRES Case Study 4: STEM Leaders Qualification (Year 9)

ASPIRES Case Study 4: STEM Leaders Qualification (Year 9)


Raising STEM Careers Awareness through the STEM Leaders Qualification in Year 9

School: Mulberry School for Girls, Tower Hamlets (Inner city community comprehensive, with a high proportion of Bangladeshi students)

Teachers: Deborah Colvin ( or Lisa Thompson (

OverviewThese projects were implemented with 2 classes of high attaining year 9 students. These students had completed their KS3 science course in 2 years and spent the first 2 terms of year 9 studying a STEM Leadership Skills Qualification before beginning their GCSEs. Projects chosen for the SLQ emphasised developing careers awareness through working with external STEM practitioners. For further information about the SLQ see

Type of lesson: Science lessons, 2 x 100 minutes per week for most of year 9 plus independent learning

Why did you do this?

We wanted to stretch our highest attaining KS3 students, and help them contextualise their learning in STEM, with the hope of engaging their interest in further study in science and STEM careers. The projects were focussed on broadening students’ knowledge of and interest in the range of activities relevant to STEM careers, rather than directly providing careers information. We worked on the premise that maximizing student autonomy and independence is likely to engage student interest.

Summary of Activities 

We ran several projects over the year, each structured differently, but all engaging with the wider STEM world through external practitioners and/or through the project material. See documents linked from descriptions below for further detail of projects implemented.

Preparation involved research and awareness of opportunities available beyond the school. There are many competitions, challenges and sources of support. Local universities are a good place to start. Be prepared to take up a project at short notice, and also for quite long lead times on some projects. Some examples which we used: 

Example 1: ‘Conserve Me’ (with volunteers from Queen Mary College)

Undergraduate students of Environmental Science run workshops on biodiversity, including classification and endangered species. Pupils research and present assignments.

Teacher Assignment Brief

Learner Assignment Brief

Conserve Me Programme Outline 

Example 2: Open-ended investigations, chosen and developed by students (e.g. How can we make plastic from milk products?)

We aimed to strengthen students’ investigative skills through training and skills’ practice, and then planning and implementing their own complete investigations. We had found in the past that learning about investigative skills was often piecemeal and too closely directed by the teacher. We hoped to raise skill levels by devoting extending periods of time to investigating.

Learner Assignment Brief

Investigation Guidelines 

Example 3: STEM challenges from STEMNET

For details see: There are regular competitive STEM Challenges released by STEMNET. We found that our high-attaining girls responded well to the challenge of designing an app related to the Olympic Games. Detailed information and support is available on online. 

Example 4: Neurobiology research

This project coincided with the Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize. We had a team of students judging the shortlisted books (see how to enter a book). Students’ interest was particularly caught by Robert Winston’s book ‘What Goes on in my Head?’ and they chose particular aspects of neurobiology to research based on spreads in the book.

Learner Assignment Brief

Neurobiology teacher slides 

Example 5: Smart Springs

The Royal Academy of Engineering’s Engineering Engagement Programme has many resources and ideas. We used the 'Smart Muscle’ activity. 

Example 6: Geometry and tapestry (Princes School of Traditional Arts and Maslaha)

Most of our students come from an Islamic background and we wanted to celebrate aspects of their heritage. Students worked with artists from The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts to design and make a tapestry, drawing inspiration from geometry and nature. 

Maslaha's new curriculum resources

TimingProjects typically ran for 4 – 6 weeks, with 2 x 100 minute science lessons each week. 


See assignment briefs and links above.

Learning and other Outcomes/Evaluation

The SLQ programme develops students’ ability to reflect on their own achievements and skills, supports development of their leadership capacities and promotes independent learning. As most of the projects we chose involved working with external practitioners, a significant outcome was learning to interact with adults in a work setting. 

Curriculum Links

These arise out of the particular projects chosen and are reflected in the assignment briefs above. 

Integrating Careers Information into the Activites

Many of the projects involved working with STEM practitioners in a work setting so students gained hands-on experience. There was also plenty of opportunity for students to talk informally with the STEM practitioners. 

Top Tips

  • This sort of programme clearly takes considerable organisation and commitment on behalf of the school. It could be implemented on a smaller scale by completing individual projects for CREST awards. 
  • Although we ran the projects in science curriculum time, most lend themselves equally well to STEM club and CREST award formats. 

Related documents

Zip Folder - ASPIRES Case Study 4: STEM Leaders Qualification (Year 9)


All the associated lesson plans, worksheets, pdfs, powerpoints (ppts) and links for this case study resource. This is a free ASE download.