13 Mar 14

EDF Energy gets kids buzzing over science

More than 80% of children have already written off a career in science by the age of 10, according to new research.

The ASPIRES study by King’s College London found two thirds of children enjoyed science lessons at primary school, but were later put off the subject by a perception that it was an industry dominated by men in lab coats with ‘crazy hair’ and was only an option for the very brightest. Children need experiences inside the classroom and at home that show the “real-world” relevance of science to encourage them to stay engaged with it, the study found.

EDF Energy is launching ‘The Great EDF Energy Experiment’, a five year programme launched in partnership with the British Science Association, which is designed to challenge over 100,000 children to think differently about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

The first experiment - The Big Bumblebee Discovery - will seek to 'recruit' thousands of children to act as scientific researchers this summer. They will be asked to count the number of bumblebees they spot in their garden, school playground or local park. The results will be used by researchers from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology to map bumblebee numbers across Britain and what impact changing population numbers have on crop pollination. EDF Energy is encouraging parents and teachers across the UK to sign up by logging on to www.beediscovery.org.

Campaign ambassador, science broadcaster and TV presenter Dallas Campbell said: “Although young people are often inspired by science at a young age, by the time they get to secondary school they’ve already discounted it as a career option – meaning that fewer people are going on to study science in further education. The Great EDF Energy Experiment is a great way to ensure young people are inspired and excited by science and encourage them to see the opportunities it can hold for them in the future.”

Over three quarters (79%) of children recognise that scientists are extremely important for our future ‘and do valuable work’ and nearly three quarters enjoy science lessons. So why do they reject science as a possible career path? The top reasons cited:

• It’s only for the bright sparks: 80% of primary school children see scientists as ‘extremely clever’ and there is a perception that only the brightest students can turn their hand to science qualifications and careers

• Science = Albert Einstein: Describing a scientist as ‘a white man, dressed in a lab coat with crazy hair’, children are unaware of the diversity of people in science related careers

• Family Influence: For those children in a non-science household, the chances of them going on to study science at a later stage are very slim. Almost half (47%) of kids aspiring to a career in science have family that work in the field.

This lack of interest in science-related careers could have serious consequences, with the Royal Academy of Engineering warning that it could create a skills gap in future. It estimates that 600,000 new STEM graduates are needed in the next six years just to maintain current employment numbers.

By involving children in mass experiments like The Big Bumblebee Discovery, EDF Energy hopes to encourage more youngsters to see science as fun, engaging and relevant to them.

Katherine Mathieson, Director of Programmes at the British Science Association commented, “The British Science Association has a long history of engaging parents and their children with science in fun and unique ways. Working with EDF Energy to launch a new programme of Citizen Science investigations, addressing real scientific questions which relate to climate and environmental changes is a further step in our mission to get kids passionate about science in a long lasting and meaningful way.”

Over the last five years, EDF Energy has implemented and operated a successful learning and teaching tool with an online resource, ‘The Pod’, which has reached over 10 million school children. In this time The Pod has come to be a trusted source of education materials for teachers and students alike, making it the ideal platform for children across the UK to take part in The Great EDF Energy Experiment. Likewise, launch partner the British Science Association continue to run a number of powerful education initiatives including CREST Star, which has been enormously successful in engaging primary children with science and encouraging positive opinions of STEM over the last seven years.

Paul Spence, Director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs, EDF Energy said, “EDF Energy’s commitment to a sustainable future is only possible if we have generations inspired to study STEM subjects and pursue careers in these industries. Through the launch of ‘The Great EDF Energy Experiment’ we aim to make science accessible, exciting, and engaging, and encourage more children to consider a career in science when they’re older.”

To find out more about The Great EDF Energy Experiment – The Big Bumblebee Discovery, or for parents and teachers to sign up to take part, visit www.beediscovery.org.

For more information please contact:

EDF Energy Press Office

T: 020 7025 6692

E: edfenergyteam@redconsultancy.com

Research referenced in this release relates to the following papers:

ASPIRES: Science and Career Aspirations age 10/14 - Kings College London - Ten Science Facts & Fictions

ASPIRES: Science and Career Aspirations age 10/14 - Kings College London - What Shapes Children’s Science and Career Aspirations age 10-13?

Archer, Dewitt, Osborne, Dillon, Willis, Wong (2010) - “Doing” Science Versus “Being” a Scientist: Examining 10/11 year old schoolchildren’s constructions of Science Through the Lens of Identity


About EDF Energy

EDF Energy is one of the UK’s largest energy companies and the largest producer of low-carbon electricity, producing around one-fifth of the nation's electricity from its nuclear power stations, wind farms, coal and gas power stations and combined heat and power plants. The company supplies gas and electricity to 5.8 million business and residential customer accounts and is the biggest supplier of electricity by volume in Great Britain.

EDF Energy’s safe and secure operation of its eight existing nuclear power stations at sites across the country makes it the UK’s largest generator of low carbon electricity. EDF Energy is also leading the UK's nuclear renaissance and has published plans to build four new nuclear plants, subject to the right investment framework.

These new plants could generate enough low carbon electricity for about 40% of Britain’s homes. They would make an important contribution to the UK’s future needs for clean, secure and affordable energy. The project is already creating business and job opportunities for British companies and workers.

Through Our Sustainability Commitments, EDF Energy has developed one of the biggest environmental and social programmes of any British energy company.

In 2013 EDF Energy received seven “Big Ticks” in the Business in the Community (BITC) Responsible Business Awards, including a Platinum Big Tick in BITC’s Corporate Responsibility Index. EDF Energy also received the Environmental Leadership for Behavioural Change Award in the national 2013 Environment and Energy Awards and was highly commended in the first ever pan European Corporate Social Responsibility Awards scheme for its Sustainable Schools programme – the Pod.

EDF was an official partner and the official electricity supplier to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The company supplied electricity to the Olympic Park which was backed by low-carbon sources: 80% from nuclear and 20% from renewable generation.

EDF Energy is part of EDF Group, one of Europe’s largest power companies. The company employs around 15,000 people at locations across the UK.

The Pod, EDF Energy’s environmental education programme

Launched in September 2008, the Pod sits at the heart of EDF Energy’s programme for greener schools. It was developed to help EDF Energy meet its Sustainability Commitment of engaging with 2.5 million children by 2012 in learning about the sustainable use of energy. The Pod now has some 18,000 registered schools and community groups, and seeks to engage young people on energy, science and sustainability. It aims to make real and measurable difference to the energy usage and carbon output of schools across the UK and to provide practical support, activities and materials for teachers.

www.jointhepod.org is an interactive website for teachers providing free lesson plans, activities, games and information all with cross curricular links. The content is currently aimed at key stages 1, 2 and 3. The ethos of the Pod is ‘Share your ideas and inspire each other’, which is why the site also encourages pupils and teachers to blog about their activities and to post photos and videos to showcase their green projects.

About The British Science Association

The British Science Association is the UK's nationwide, open membership organisation that exists to advance the public understanding, accessibility and accountability of the sciences and engineering. Established in 1831, the British Science Association organises major initiatives across the UK, including National Science and Engineering Week, the annual British Science Festival, programmes of regional and local events, and an extensive programme for young people in schools and colleges. For more information please visit www.britishscienceassociation.org.

About the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) is the UK's Centre of Excellence for integrated research in the land and freshwater ecosystems and their interaction with the atmosphere. CEH is part of the Natural Environment Research Council, employs more than 450 people at four major sites in England, Scotland and Wales, hosts over 150 PhD students, and has an overall budget of about £35m. CEH tackles complex environmental challenges to deliver practicable solutions so that future generations can benefit from a rich and healthy environment. www.ceh.ac.uk You can follow the latest developments in CEH research viawww.twitter.com/CEHScienceNews and our rss news feed http://www.ceh.ac.uk/rss/rss.xml