Young students in a lecture theatre

Donor-supported outreach work

The Department of Physics’ award-winning outreach team works hard to build relationships with local schools and community groups; inspire young scientists around the world; improve access to physics at Oxford; and engage the public with our research. The team’s essential work is often generously supported by our philanthropic donors.

Broadening horizons

Claire Beecroft is one such ardent supporter of our department and her recent gift has enabled the Physics Horizons programme to come to fruition. The programme delivers a series of workshops for key stage four and key stage five students in schools across Oxfordshire and Warwickshire and students benefit from activities such as a virtual tour of a perovskite laboratory, a panel discussion about how new ideas and creativity in physics are shaping our lives, and sessions on careers in STEM.

‘I liked the idea of supporting Physics Horizons in particular because of the way it aims to break down some of the stereotypes typically associated with STEM subjects,’ said Claire. ‘My daughter is currently in year nine, so I was pleased to support something which might inspire girls of her age to consider studying physics beyond GCSE level.’

Ambitious mentoring

The pilot of a brand new programme offering remote one-to-one mentoring for 120 Year 12 students over a 12-month period has been funded by Mathematics Education for Social Mobility and Excellence (MESME). A new organisation that exists to support students from all backgrounds to achieve excellence in the mathematical sciences, so that they go on to have a greater and richer range of future personal, employment and economic choices.

Charlie Jewell, Programme Manager at MESME, said: ‘MESME and Oxford’s Department of Physics are committed to encouraging students from all backgrounds to study mathematical sciences at university. By introducing school students to university-style maths and physics problems, and providing personalised mentoring support, we believe this programme will have a profound effect on their future relationship with maths and physics.

‘We are delighted to be supporting this new initiative, and we look forward to seeing it develop over the coming months.’

Targeted tutoring

In another recent initiative, the Department of Physics has partnered with the Institute of Physics (IOP) to offer a programme of tutoring and mentoring to local sixth-form students. The 14-month programme, Levelling Up: Physics, provides 40 students with a programme of dedicated physics tuition from a specialist A-level tutor. The pupils will also be part of a mentoring programme run by the Department of Physics; students will be paired with undergraduate physicists who can provide insight into what it’s like to study physics at university. The IOP also coordinates companion programmes in maths and chemistry known collectively as Levelling Up: STEM.
The Department of Physics’ participation in this programme would not have been possible without the support of our generous donor, Tony Hill, an Oxford alumnus who has worked closely with the IOP to design the programme.

‘I wanted to work with the IOP to create something which would provide real opportunities to level the playing field in STEM education,’ said Tony. ‘I am delighted that Oxford is participating in the pilot of the programme, and I was pleased to be able to facilitate this via a donation to the Department of Physics. The students' HE destination may be Physics, Engineering, or indeed any STEM subject that requires Physics A-Level.

‘For me, supporting outreach work in this way is incredibly rewarding, because it enables me to provide young people with the educational opportunities that they deserve.’

Long-term support

Another long-term supporter of outreach in the Department of Physics is the Lancaster-Taylor Charitable Trust that exists to further educational excellence; they have been supporting a variety of initiatives since 2018.

‘We are very pleased to be supporting the excellent work of the Department of Physics’ access and outreach team at Oxford,’ said trustee Steven Edwards. ‘It is particularly encouraging to see how outreach activities have been able to adapt and continue during the pandemic, despite the very challenging circumstances. Covid-19 has created additional barriers for some young people in engaging with STEM subjects, so I’m very pleased that the Lancaster-Taylor Charitable Trust has been able to assist with this important work.’

Find out more about our work with schools.

Find out more about our work with the public.