STEM day
Prior Pursglove College

Teesside youngsters benefit from STEM careers advice

Over two hundred Year 9 pupils from across the area descended on Prior Pursglove College in order to learn about potential careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (or collectively, STEM) led subjects.

Pupils from Laurence Jackson School, Huntcliff School, Bydales School, Ryehills School and Sacred Heart RC School enjoyed several inspirational speakers including an explosive session with Dr John Kilcoyne, hands-on activities and found support from local employers. STEM student ambassadors from the college helped support the event but also joined in with activities and looked to prosper from the careers advice on offer.

Prior Pursglove College Principal Judy Burton commented, “I hope that the Year 9 pupils who attended had an excellent time and enjoyed the opportunity to learn about what a STEM career can bring.

“The superb facilities and range of course that we offer make Prior Pursglove College a fantastic destination for sixth form students looking to kick-start a STEM future. I hope to welcome many of today’s attendees back in the future.”

The excellent facilities on campus include a recent £1.5 million dedicated Arts & Media Centre which officially opened last December and a half million pound refurbishment of the science labs, providing an excellent range of specialist equipment. Ready for the new intake of students in August will be a fully refurbished Student Services building which will house all essential provision into one area. A new state of the art gym is also open and free for students and staff to use.

The event was organised by Prior Pursglove College’s STEM coordinator Andrew Watts. He said, “What an excellent day for the over two hundred Year 9 students who spent the day with us. They particularly enjoyed the hands-on science sessions, meeting lots of people from local industries and firms, and Dr John Kilcoyne’s exploding Chemistry talk. Many of our visitors now say that they are more likely to study STEM subjects in the future and more likely to look for STEM careers.”

Prior Pursglove College student Luke Marshall (ex Sacred Heart RC School) acted as a STEM ambassador and helped run the day’s activities as well as escorted and supported guests around campus. Luke remarked, “I’ve really enjoyed helping out on what has been a very eye opening and prosperous day for the attending pupils. It will give them an idea about the courses and careers available to them.” As well as keeping an eye open on university, Luke is also thinking about taking the apprenticeship route. He continued, “I have been thinking about university, but another option which would take me straight into work is to take an apprenticeship. This would enable me to learn on the job as well as earning an income.”

Pupils from all of the five visiting schools enjoyed the day of STEM activities. One youngster who benefitted from the advice and activities was Rebecca Chapman, a pupil at Sacred Heart RC School. She said, “I thought it was excellent. I especially enjoyed the talk from Dr John Kilcoyne which was fun and informative. I am looking at being a vet as a career so definitely want to study STEM courses before taking a veterinary degree at university. I have had a chance to look around at Prior Pursglove College where my cousins are currently studying, and they have told me what a great reputation it has.”

Ben Graham, a pupil at Laurence Jackson School, said, “The careers carousel taught me how different jobs worked and what qualifications I would need,” while Bydales School pupil Morgan Mcfadyen commented, “I enjoyed taking part in the chemistry activity where we made our own foam.”

Alice Briggs, Ryehills School, remarked, “The STEM Ambassadors and staff were very welcoming, the students helped to show us around,” and Shannon Robinson from Huntcliff School stated, “I thought the activities were all useful and fun, especially chemistry.”

Nick Tindall, Assistant Head of Sacred Heart RC School, noted, “I thought that the event ran extremely well with lots of practical activities for our pupils to take part in. The whole day was not only informative but also very fun. The pupils have gained from the experience of learning about what STEM careers can hold. The facilities at Prior Pursglove College are excellent, the new buildings particularly.”

Three guest speakers held talks in the college’s lecture theatre. Dr Mick Rollo from the Institute of Physics spoke about opportunities in his area, Professor Tom Ward from the University of Durham explained about the route to university while Sunderland University’s Dr John Kilcoyne, who the pupils knew from Sky One’s Braniac TV programme, performed his ‘explosive’ session.

Dr John Kilcoyne said, “Why should young people get into science? Because it is great fun and a very enjoyable career to pursue. The career possibilities are endless; you can teach, practice, research, and report science for starters. The young people here today are going to fuel the future.”

Mick Rollo remarked, “Physics keeps career options open because the subject connects with everything. The most convincing reason I can give young people looking to get into Physics is that it is a fun and rewarding subject.”

On looking at career destinations and courses, Prof. Ward said, “Year 9 pupils should already be thinking about their university or career options. Students should not be put off by the increase in tuition fees because going to university is rewarding and is worth the financial investment. There are support packages and bursaries available so young people should be asking the right questions about where their futures lie.”

During the ‘careers carousel’ pupils had 8 minutes with a guest from a number of local employers and STEM-practicing companies including EDF, Sembcorp, Tata, Marlow Foods and PD Ports.

Becky Bendell, Public Relations Officer at Sembcorp, said, “It has been really beneficial to have young people see what our industry is like. We will always need new engineers in the process chemical industry and those we have spoken to today may aspire to that.”

Mike Roberts, a consultant at Custom Electronics and former ICI engineer also took part in the careers carousel. He said, “It was great to have the opportunity to pass on my experience in engineering to the next generation.”

Prior Pursglove College student and STEM Ambassador Lucy Stephenson (ex Laurence Jackson School) especially appreciated Mr Roberts’ advice. “As well as helping out across the day I also made use of the expertise that was on hand. I found speaking to Mike Roberts extremely interesting as I would like to get into chemical engineering as a career. His career is inspiring and impressive and it was great to hear about his experiences”, pronounced Lucy.

Prior Pursglove College offers many different A Level and equivalent courses in STEM subject areas; in fact the college offers the largest range of courses in the region and, according to the Sutton Trust report 2011, is the top college in the area for getting students a place at university. A full list of these and other details about the college, its facilities and resources are available on the website;

The college recently launched its own STEM Futures careers brochure to inspire more young people to reach their potential and build prosperous careers.

The publication is freely available to young people, schools and any individuals who would like to make use of it. The publication is available to download from, or to request a hard copy please email

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