Science 4U


To encourage girls into science and technology at advanced level through a week long work- based problem-solving exercise.

Argument for inclusion

children in lab

The Science 4U is a successful collaboration between school, university and industry partners.
This REC addresses women’s under representation in advanced science careers.
The activities build self-confidence in own abilities to learn advanced mathematics and science subjects, a major barrier to take up of further science studies.

Relevant information in short

Main Research Partners

University of Bradford

Educational partners

St. Joseph’s Catholic College (girls’ school)

Other partners

United Utilities (gas company), Yorkshire Water (water company)

Age classes


Thematic orientation

Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, Design and Technology, Computing

Main Focus

15-20 pupils who do well in science have a 1-week work placement in industry and then present at university on the practical problem they have solved as a team.

Duration of activity

1 week every year, since 2003.


The REC helped the school gain a Specialist Science College status in 2004. The Specialist College budget now permanently funds the Science 4U activity for the school. Industry partners cover their own costs.

Website and

Contact person

Ms Elaine Barker (St Joseph’s Catholic College)

Context and conditions

The Science 4U was initiated by the St. Josephs Catholic College in 2003 and the coordination responsibility remains with them. The partnership was set up with help from the Science, Engineering and Technology Network (SETNET), who provided the links to industry and university partners and the initial funding. School provides teaching expertise and the group of pupils, industry partners provide access to their sites, a real-life problem for pupils to resolve, supervision from female role-models, the university partner provides additional teaching, access to academic facilities and a forum for student presentations.

Activities and Contents

St. Joseph’s Catholic College sends 14-15 year old girls every year to a 1-week long intensive work placement with two large local employers of science and engineering graduates. Partners work together to deliver varied and engaging teaching through a real life industry problem the pupils have to resolve in teams, working at the company sites and in school labs. At the end of the process they present the results of their work at the university to an audience of parents, teachers, industry and university partners.


The educational programme has 7 phases:
Phase 1: Introduction to the company and the jobs science graduates do
Phase 2: Site visits with information on the science and technology aspects of the business
Phase 3: Introduction to the problem

  • Yorkshire Water: Design a mechanism that will ensure an even mix of chlorine and avoid spots of stagnant water in a tank.
  • United Utilities: Apply mathematics to work out parameters for 99% fail safe gas holder.
Science 4U-group visiting the  Yorkshire Water site on the first day of the programme

Phase 4: Brainstorming in groups to find possible solutions, considering also cost and feasibility. Company staff answers technical questions but does not propose solutions. Students reach their own conclusions.
Phase 5: Experiments in school and university labs to find the optimal solution, the group works independently supervised by a teacher.
Phase 6: Preparing the presentations in university labs with university staff guiding them in the use of Powerpoint.
Phase 7: Final presentations in university lecture theatre to an audience of fellow students, parents, teachers, company representatives and university staff.

Brainstorming to solve the problem

The methodology encourages independent, interdisciplinary thinking and teamwork to use science and mathematics knowledge to resolve real life problems. No ‘one right solution’ to the problem is imposed by adults. Students develop a sense of how science and technology are used in working life and the society. Students find encouraging role models by meeting female scientist in the companies and at the university. Students gain valuable self-confidence through a public presentation of their work.

Curriculum relevance

Since 2004 the secondary school in the UK have had the statutory requirement to provide work-based learning placements. This project makes an excellent use of that requirement. The industry partners design the practical problems for students to resolve. Invariably the solutions require using, consolidating and extending curriculum knowledge in more than one school subject.

Mutual benefits

Brainstorming tYorkshire Water researcher explaining the   problem of rust in water pipes

The school boosts the science and mathematics learning for students, the companies keep themselves up to date on science education as well as raise their profile towards potential future recruits, university gets an opportunity to familiarise potential future undergraduates with science studies at university level.

Evaluation /feedbacks  

The Science 4U self-evaluates internally through eliciting feedback from participants and partners. They also monitor the numbers of girls proceeding to Science studies in post-compulsory education and in undergraduate degree studies.  Some of the participants progress to study science subjects at advanced level, but it is hard to say how many do so as a result of the Science 4U experience.

Limits and possibilities

The most important limit is the amount of organising the partnership requires from the school. However, the initial planning was the most laborious. Now that the programme is consolidated the school is planning to extend similar work-placements to other subject areas, such as the arts and humanities.

The photographs originally appeared in The Grid project Case Study ‘Science 4U’ published on the Grid website.