The impact of the Your Life STEM campaign

An unexpected arrival in my postbox recently was the Your Life Campaign Impact report

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as the 3 year campaign drew to a close in December 2017.

Back in 2014 I blogged that the launch seemed more hype than substance but, as is the case with a number of nationwide careers promotional campaigns, actual provision for young people can be spread thinly across the country and take a number of years to build up a head of steam.

Now though, while the social media accounts are still (at the time of writing) up and the Future Finder STEM job matching site rebranded across to The Female Lead campaign (also run by the ex Your Life Chair Edwina Dunn (actual name Edwina Humby) the YouTube account has been closed, the website 404s and no further activities or events will run under the Your Life banner.

Launched by Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary back in the simpler time of 2014 under the coalition government, the campaign was tasked with the remit of helping to

open young people’s eyes to what studying STEM subjects could mean for their future.

but more specifically to

raise the status of STEM subjects, and increase the number of students studying maths and physics at A level by 50% within 3 years.

This work came under the wider banner of public policy of improving the public understanding of maths and science. This also added the following objectives:

  1. change the way young people think about maths and science by raising awareness of the exciting and wide-ranging careers that studying these subjects can lead to
  2. increase the opportunities for all people and particularly women to pursue a wide range of careers that need skills in science, technology, engineering and maths

The Impact Report details how the campaign approached achieving this by

  • working with ” a team of Emmy Award winning writers” to produce a series of Youtube videos (140 videos produced with 1.5 million views racked up)
  • Organising trips to for school students to STEM employers (I took a group to an Amazon depot under this banner a few years ago)
  • A competition called Formula 100 that “generated hundreds of entries”
  • Releasing the Tough Choices report
  • Designing the Future Finder app and website
  • Media coverage
  • The STEM school Finder website allowing the public to find schools offering STEM A Levels

To help them with some of these initiatives, Your Life engaged the data science company, Starcount, to “develop the right engagement triggers for different teenage audiences” which led their “content strategy” through avenues such as Youtube. It should be noted, that Edwina Dunn is CEO of Starcount, among other business ventures.

To fund this work the Your Life CIC filing at Companies House, details how the campaign received £1,012,090 through to 2016 in funding. The full accounts posted for the period up to February 2017 reported no more such income. All accounts report that the directors received no payment for their time but the 2017 return does detail that

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which means that, across the 3 year period, Mrs Humby’s other businesses received £84,300 from the campaign funds.

The value gained from this investment of over one million pounds should be judged on the objectives set. The most clearly measurable is to see if there has been a substantive rise in the percentage of students taking Maths and Science at A Level. Figures the include this period from the Joint Council of Qualifications

a level entries

and Ofqual

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show that the percentage of entries in these subjects has barely increased percentage wise. Even the base numbers, at a time of rising populations, don’t show much movement

In 2014 83,200 students took Maths A Level – in 2017 this had risen to 88,830

Biology 2014 – 58,090 and in 2017 fallen to 56,950

Chemistry 2014 – 49,130 and in 2017 – 48,760

Physics 2014 – 33,590 and in 2017 – 33,840

The Impact Report does everything it can to not mention this failure to, well, impact on these numbers preferring instead to focus on social media views. The report is mindful of the giant strides that still need to be taken

Your Life can only go so far. Despite our successes, shifting the dial significantly requires a structural solution

which does elicit some sympathy from me. In the cash starved world of CEIAG provision, a million pounds over three years is a huge amount of money but to achieve the change and impact Your Life was tasked with, it was nowhere near enough to even scratch the surface. Now succeeded by the very similar Year of Engineering, the Your Life campaign shows that Government intervention can be well meaning but is regularly given too tiny tools to tackle too large a job.

 

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