Francis Jones — CEO and founder of STEM@Home — shares his vision for science education and how Future Leaders is helping him achieve it.
Why should a STEM education only happen within a formal environment? The pandemic showed us that it doesn’t have to — with schools and offices disrupted by the pandemic, we all had a front row seat to a world where learning and working can happen almost anywhere!
But there’s more to it than this. Not all learners thrive in the classroom or respond to traditional revision methods and, while some science students absorb theory easily, others rely on practical learning to cement their theoretical knowledge.
I developed STEM@Home in December 2021 to change how students engage with their formal science education, giving them a better way to prepare for their science GCSEs. In summer 2022, I joined the Future Leaders programme at TPXimpact to help me launch the product.
Making STEM engaging at home
When we spoke to a group of science teachers and parents across the UK to see what could be done, 75% of the group considered science experiments to be a key to success in GCSE exams. However, around half of the teachers we spoke to don’t re-run experiments, due to time and money constraints. This means that if a student doesn’t grasp the experiments the first time, they rarely get an opportunity to try again, which hurts their exam results.
To give students more opportunities to practice the experiments needed for their exams, we designed science subscription boxes for students to use in their own time.
Each box includes all possible past exam questions for GCSE biology, chemistry and physics, as well as equipment that aligns with one of the 28 required practicals. Students can then practice with these at home as many times as needed to help them fully understand the topic.
We were excited to find that, in our initial user testing, the boxes really made a difference! Students who used STEM@Home impressively gained 50% more marks in practical questions — giving them the potential to improve their results by two grades.
"I strongly believe that education is the most vital gift you can give someone."
Closing the attainment gap in science education
When I worked as a science teacher, I saw a huge attainment gap between students from a variety of ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds. It doesn’t have to be this way and I feel passionate about empowering all students in their education. One way to close this gap is to make our STEM@Home boxes as accessible as possible and we’re approaching this in two ways.
Firstly, once our students have finished using their boxes, we encourage them to send the box and most of its contents back to us via a free post address. We then upcycle these boxes and donate them to grassroots education charities to distribute as they see fit. An added benefit is that it keeps our boxes kind to the planet by preventing them from going to landfill.
Secondly, we’re working hard to secure contracts with schools, academy trusts and local education authorities (LEAs) so that they can give the boxes to those who would benefit from them the most — such as special educational needs and disability (SEND) students and those who can’t attend school regularly.
"I want to empower more students to truly embrace STEM education and gain the ability to question the world around them."
How the Future Leaders programme supports STEM@Home
When I learned about TPXimpact’s Future Leaders programme, I knew it aligned with my mission for STEM@Home. One reason for this was our common interest in social enterprise. When I joined the programme, TPXimpact’s CEO Neal Gandhi's words stuck with me — “As a social enterprise, you need to think about who your main stakeholder is. It’s the students. You need to help make their lives better.” This is exactly what STEM@Home is all about!
Another reason is that with TPXimpact being a data driven company, the Future Leaders programme can help me make sure the product is benefitting students in the most effective way. Despite our target audience being parents and schools, our main users are the children themselves — so we need to ensure that STEM@Home supports them in improving their science grades as much as possible.
My mentor Daniela is doing a fantastic job of project managing me to help me achieve my business goals.
What’s next for STEM@Home?
After gathering customer and user data from test launches, we’re currently in the process of a soft launch to help us refine our business model. Getting that right will help us to tailor the marketing strategy ahead of an official launch at the end of 2022.
The long term plan is to permanently change the narrative around where, when and how students receive their formal science education to once again make England a country of scientific progress and discoveries! The best way to achieve that is to empower and educate the next generations. That was a key motivation behind why I became a teacher and why I chose to develop STEM@Home.
Discover more about STEM@Home here.
Meet the mentor
Daniela Gheorghe is a Delivery Director at TPXimpact. Her role includes looking at customer requirements and ensuring we have the best people delivering client projects.
“During my education in Romania, I always enjoyed practical exercises and thought they were the best way to understand the theory. So, hearing Francis’s idea for STEM@Home was fascinating for me. Francis's passion to help students is very inspiring and I have learned a lot from Francis in the last couple of months,” says Daniela.
"The ability to complete practical exercises at home in a safe environment — as many times as needed — is invaluable, in my opinion! This will give students the confidence to learn and innovate from an early age."
Delivery Management, TPXimpact
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