Impact and evaluation
For over three decades, the British Science Association’s CREST Awards have been providing successful STEM enrichment activities for young people. It is used by around a third of all UK secondary schools each year and last year, over 33,000 students achieved a CREST Award.
We believe that STEM activities should provide opportunities for students to work creatively, supporting the development of broader life skills valuable whatever career path students choose. Creativity is central to the CREST Awards and is a key part in many STEM enrichment opportunities in the UK.
One-off activities are not usually enough to develop a lifelong interest in science. Most students need to experience a range of activities that stimulate their interest and show the range of applications of STEM subjects. Our CREST framework provides a clear journey for students from CREST Star for primary school students to CREST Gold Awards at post-16 level.
There have been a number of evaluation reports into CREST produced in recent years. In January 2016, we published a report produced by a team of volunteer economists from Pro Bono Economics, which revealed that students who have taken a CREST Silver Award achieved half a grade higher on their best science GCSE result and were more likely to continue with STEM education, compared to a matched control group.
The report also showed that the impact CREST Awards can have is even greater for more disadvantaged students.
- Silver CREST students eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) saw a larger increase in their best science GCSE (two thirds of a grade) compared to a matched control group who were also eligible for FSM;
- Students who were eligible for Free School Meals and took part in a CREST Silver Award were 38% more likely to take a STEM subject at AS Level than the matched control group.
In 2011, an impact study from the University of Liverpool concluded that CREST has a strong positive impact on students. Their attitudes towards Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) and aspirations for SET careers are significantly improved. This study also showed that involvement in the CREST Awards appears to encourage students to continue with the study of SET subjects.
A report into the CREST Expansion Scheme showed that three-quarters of participating students and 78% of teachers rated CREST as good or very good. Its strong point was that it put them in touch with real world STEM, and allowed them to develop independent personal skills, such as team work and creativity.
About half the CREST student cohort reported a positive shift in attitudes toward STEM and STEM careers as a result of participation in CREST. Many of those whose attitudes did not change were already positive about STEM. This attitude shift was largely brought about as CREST participants began to understand what science does, and how they and their ideas could fit into it. The image of scientists, either a mad caricature or a tidy nerd, began to take on a more aspirational aspect, as shown below.
My Stem Club were assessed for their Bronze Award and had so much pride when they got it! The assessor was impressed at the skills they had learned in communication and facing challenges. The whole experience is so valuable!
It’s helped the self-esteem for some low achievers for whom it is their major achievement in school.