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Defining disadvantage

Previously, you have looked at the need to consider special educational needs (SEN) and gender when undertaking STEM volunteering activities. During this step we are going to be looking at disadvantaged young people.

The UK government and STEM Learning are aiming for STEM Ambassadors to increase engagement with young people who are disadvantaged. This may also be an aim for your volunteering organisation or workplace. It is important to note that disadvantage is complex and young people may fall into a number of groups.

Definition of disadvantaged

The UK government’s Department for Education defines disadvantaged pupils as those who receive Free School Meals or are Looked After Children. Schools receive extra funding from the government for every disadvantaged pupil to raise attainment.

Multiple disadvantages

It is worth noting that some young people will have multiple disadvantages beyond the UK government’s definition above. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, found evidence that:

“Gypsies, Travellers and Roma, homeless people, people with learning disabilities, and migrants, refugees and asylum seekers often suffer multiple disadvantages, including poor outcomes in educational attainment and employment, and barriers to accessing healthcare.”

The relationship between disadvantage and STEM subject attainment

There is a connection between socioeconomic disadvantage and lack of achievement in STEM subjects.

The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CASE) stated in 2014 that there are clear achievement gaps between students eligible for Free School Meals that widen between ages 7-11 and 11-14 years (in the UK, Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3).

There are complex reasons for this. Students taught in schools with high numbers of students receiving Free School Meals are less likely to be taught science by a specialist teacher for each of the sciences, and we know that there is a correlation between specialist subject teaching and higher attainment.

The Social Mobility and Poverty Commission found in its State of the Nation report that, according to Ofsted (inspectorate for schools in England) ratings, the most deprived areas still have 30% fewer good schools and a lower proportion of their teaching is rated good or outstanding than in the least deprived areas.

How to reach disadvantaged young people in formal education

STEM Ambassadors can discuss with their local STEM Ambassador Hub how they can reach disadvantaged young people. They will have a list of priority schools in their area and ideas of how to engage with those schools.

In the next step we will be hearing from a secondary school teacher and the potential challenges in her school.

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This article is from the free online course:

Inspiring Young People in STEM: Resources for Activities and Promoting Diversity

National STEM Learning Centre