Roehampton Professor Receives £940,000 Funding for Science Education Research

  • Monday, June 26, 2023

Professor Ian Abrahams Head of Research & Knowledge Exchange in the School of Education, and Professor of Science Education at the University of Roehampton London, has been granted £940,000 to lead a research project aimed at improving science education for disadvantaged secondary school students. The project, known as ASCENTS 1-2-1, focuses on supporting Year 11 pupils (aged 15-16) eligible for Pupil Premium by pairing them with undergraduate mentors specializing in STEM subjects.

The programme involves weekly mentoring sessions lasting an hour, conducted within schools under the supervision of qualified teachers. These sessions will continue throughout the students' final year of their mandatory science General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) course, commencing in the Autumn term of the 2023/24 school year.

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The initial pilot phase of the project demonstrated statistically significant positive outcomes. Pupil Premium students who participated in the programme experienced notable improvements in their mock and actual GCSE science results (Sharpe, Abrahams, & Fotou, 2018). Encouraged by these promising findings, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Wellcome Trust provided funding for an expanded project involving five universities. However, the research was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent cancellation of traditional GCSE examinations.

Despite the setbacks, the ASCENTS 1-2-1 project's report ASCENTS 121 support for science | EEF ( emphasized its achievements in the face of adversity. The encouraging outcomes observed during the pandemic prompted the EEF to grant an additional £904,000 for an extended initiative involving seven universities. Roehampton University will lead the collaboration with Anglia Ruskin, Hull, Lincoln, Liverpool, Northumbria, and Plymouth Marjon universities. Each university will enlist local partner secondary schools to participate in the program.

The project's impact will be assessed by an external organization called NatCen to ensure its effectiveness in improving science education and nurturing the interest and abilities of disadvantaged students.

Reference: Sharpe, R., Abrahams, I., & Fotou, N. (2018). Does paired mentoring work? A study of the effectiveness and affective value of academically asymmetrical peer mentoring in supporting disadvantaged students in school science. Research in Science & Technological Education, 36(2), 205-225.