One hundred primary and secondary school teachers will be poised by their computers come the morning of Tuesday 7 February when booking opens for Cheltenham Science Festival’s Science for Schools programme. 

Last year the most popular workshops sold out within 20 minutes and half the programme was snapped up on the first day of booking. Astronaut Tim Peake, CBBC presenter Jess French, the team from the world’s most sustainable football club Forest Green Rovers and science communicator Jamie Gallagher on the science of TikTok are just some of the speakers appearing in the programme of around 70 talks, workshops and free drop-in activities. 

“Our Key Stage 1 events are particularly sought after,” says Schools and Family Programme Manager Matthew Allen.

“We work closely with schools to understand what works for them and how we can enhance classroom learning and the curriculum with relevant and topical events. We offer bespoke packages that make it really easy for the schools to book and which we believe no other science festival offers.”  

The Festival presents shows and workshops for Key Stages 1 to 4 over four days. Alongside their bookings, schools can reserve timed slots in four free Interactive Zones and take advantage of drop-in activities at three more free interactive areas. A Careers Day for Key Stage 4 pupils will introduce 400 students to innovative specialists from a range of STEM industries, so they can be inspired to become the skilled workforce needed in many key industries, particularly cyber security.  

Raytheon UK is a strategic partner for the Science for Schools programme and will be both running a workshop and supporting the Careers Day.

A spokesperson for Raytheon UK said: "We are delighted to be a festival partner for the Science for Schools programme. We believe that by encouraging and supporting the next generation of STEM learners, we will highlight the opportunities and pave the way for those preparing to enter the UK workforce.  

“That is why each year Raytheon UK invests and supports a variety of programmes and events like Cheltenham Science Festival, to help cultivate the knowledge and valuable STEM skills that can support and inspire the next generation.”  

Several more local industries – including EDF, GE and Hartpury University and College – are also longstanding partners of the Festival, providing many of the free Interactive Zones on site. Young people themselves will also create content for the Science Festival as a result of two new initiatives 

DataFace is a trail-blazing new schools programme undertaken in partnership with the CyberFirst and the Jean Golding Institute. Its goal is to enable young people to tell stories they care about through gathering and visualising data. 

With AI and automation changing the face of the workplace, and Cheltenham itself set to be the cyber capital of the UK within the next five years, these skills are increasingly fundamental to young peoples’ career prospects, as well as to the economies not just of Gloucestershire but the UK and world more widely.  

Collaborating in teams, DataFace participants will be introduced to interrogating a large dataset and encouraged to tell an engaging story about the information they find in it. Focusing on themes of equality and diversity, well-being, or environmental and sustainability issues, the project will help nurture the next generation of creative data analysists, machine learning specialists and big data engineers. 

Aligning big data’s power to reveal trends with storytelling’s ability to win over hearts and minds, DataFace will equip Cheltenham’s young people with the full range of skills crucial to their future success - and that of their communities. Already piloted in 2021-2 across four schools, one hundred schools will be taking part in DataFace by 2025. Each year’s cohort will present their stories at Cheltenham Science Festival, developing their communication skills and confidence alongside their new data and tech know-how. 

Meanwhile, ChangeMakers - a collaboration between the Science Festival and Cheltenham Education Partnership - seeks to emphasise the critical role young people can and must take in creating positive change in the world - and likewise focuses on equipping them to do so.  

A series of five workshops with a group of student representatives from eight Cheltenham secondary schools, the ChangeMakers programme will enable students to explore the never more relevant question of gender equality. From how to encourage women leaders in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to questions of achieving equal opportunities in public life and tackling period poverty, the participants will be encouraged to think big - and inspire others to make change, in Cheltenham and beyond. 

Crucially, the project will culminate in an interactive event hosted at the exciting Discover Zone at Cheltenham Science Festival. Here the students will showcase their work and discuss it with a live audience. This will offer the young people a unique opportunity to develop key communications skills for themselves - and spread their ideas more widely. 

Not only will all this work familiarise the young people with a key UN Sustainable Development Goal, and why these questions are important worldwide; it will enable them to understand how to make immediate change in their most local communities, creating a sense of real achievement - to the benefit for all of us who share them. 

The Festival has been working hard in recent years to make the Science for Schools programme accessible to all. Workshops and shows are available to home-schooled children and 750 free tickets are given to local schools where more than 30% of children are in receipt of pupil premium. Schools are provided with tailored accessibility information so that pupils with special needs can be accommodated.  

According to a study by Dr Cherry Canovan at University of Lancaster, science festivals inspire and enthuse pupils, make science exciting and positively change pupil attitudes to science. 

Cheltenham Science Festival has access to a diverse range of speakers who can present science in a non-traditional way that makes it instantly appealing and exciting. As well as well-known presenters, the programming team ensures that children can see people from all backgrounds working in science. A remarkable resource of new voices in this field is the Cheltenham Science Festival’s international science communication competition FameLab.  Three speakers in the Science for Schools programme are FameLab alumni.  

The schools version of that programme - FameLab Academy, supported by EDF – has expanded hugely since it began nine years ago. In the competition, Year 9 students, supported by their teachers and a STEM Mentor from the world of academia or industry, prepare three-minute presentations to explain a scientific topic in a dynamic and engaging way to a panel of judges. The winner from each school receives a Masterclass in science communication, a work placement in a local STEM company and entry into the regional final. 

This year, more Gloucestershire schools than ever are taking part in FameLab Academy with 24 signed up for 2022/2023 . The programme is due to expand nationally over the next few years and is currently taking place internationally in Australia and Qatar. 

Dr Gary Kerr from Edinburgh Napier University was commissioned to evaluate the programme and reported: “100% of teachers surveyed across a four-year period said participation in FameLab Academy has been significant for their pupils in terms of confidence building, improving scientific literacy, and in being able to consider a wider range of STEM careers. Schools that participate in FameLab Academy have seen an increase in the uptake of science subjects. At this stage we are only able to say this is a correlation... but there is evidence that FameLab Academy has the potential to make pupils seriously consider a career in STEM.” 

Breakdown of Science for Schools events at Cheltenham Science Festival  

Key Stage 1 events 

  • Hassun El-Zafar explores how science affects our everyday lives using live demos and spectacular science facts. 
  • In a live, musical performance, STEM Theatre delve into what it’s like to be an engineer based on stories from real-life engineers.  
  • Sarah Bearchell invites students to join her in a multi-sensory investigation around proving air is all around us.  
  • Make unusual melodies with Science Made Simple’s Ruth Perkins and learn how sound is turned into music.  

Key Stage 2 events 

  • Astronaut Tim Peake explores the wonders of the universe in his first non-fiction for children The Cosmic Diary of Our Incredible Universe. 
  • James Piercey journeys through our blood vessels to find out what blood is made of and where it comes from.  
  • The world’s most sustainable football club, Forest Green Rovers, share tips on how to have a healthy body, mind and planet.  
  • Presenter Jess French explores what makes our bond with pets and animals so special and delves into our planet’s extraordinary wildlife and what can be done to protect it.  
  • Elizabeth Mills investigates the hidden superpowers of the ocean’s sea creatures in Sealife Superheroes.  
  • Art and science collide as Helen Mason from SunSpaceArt explores the Solar System and space using 3D art.  
  • Gastronaut Stefan Gates looks at the bizarre chemistry, biology and physics behind our farts in a hilarious and explosive adventure.  
  • Pyka creates supersonic sounds using a crisp packet and other everyday materials to create different melodies and soundscapes.  
  • Braintastic! Science show how to build a resilient brain along with tips to help boost positive mental wellbeing.  

Key Stage 3 events  

  • Emily May Armstrong and Russell Arnott reveal the amazing albitites behind the coolest plants in Earth’s history.  
  • Lockheed Martin teach students about cyber security and tech in a master coding workshop.  
  • Jamie Gallagher explores the science behind TikTok and demonstrates how to make a science TikTok go viral. 
  • Discover Materials examine how different materials can help us understand the world around us with puzzles and challenges.  
  • Doctor Daniel Olaiya explores how to survive as an astronaut living in space.
Science for school

Science for school

Cheltenham Science Festival

Cheltenham Science Festival