WE'RE FIRED UP TO FLOURISH; This Week Education Reporter Ben Turner Visited Rainhill High School Where a New Science Academy Is Adding Fizz to Students' Career Development

Article excerpt

Byline: Ben Turner

MOST schools deter pupils from playing with fire.

Not at Rainhill High School - here it is encouraged as part of its science provision to help students explode on to the university scene.

In September the school opened a science academy for sixth form students to complement the secondary's wish to be a "centre of excellence for science education in the North West".

The academy sees students enjoy a package which combines traditional academic study alongside tailored placements within the sector and advice from experts in the field.

It helps that the school counts a host of science leaders as partners ranging from Whiston Hospital to National Museums Liverpool.

Students do not only get a grounding in academic theory but mix with professionals and try their hands at the jobs they are interested in flourishing in.

And headteacher John Pout said the innovative approach of mixing school-based work with industry experience was a way of giving students an extra edge when it comes to applying for university.

He said: "It is to ensure their university applications have a lot to say beyond their science A-levels."

A key part of the approach is genuine accredited work experience which accrue entry points for university.

Every student doing an A-level in biology, chemistry, physics or applied science in BTEC are sent to study science through an industry placement ranging from half a day to full week depending on their particular passion or interest.

Places have ranged from working at Jaguar in Halewood to Pilkington in St Helens.

Mr Pout said: "They are making the connection in the sixth form with the real world."

As well as the placements, another expert helping hand comes in the form of termly masterclasses from science professionals.

Students also get in-depth career advice with a mentor from the science work assigned to each pupil.

As well as face-to-face meetings the mentor also communicates electronically.

And another key part of the academy's success is equipping students with the equipment they will use in industry.

Its science labs are a million miles away from the grubby Bunsen burner strewn labs of yester year.

The ECHO's visit coincided with a group of sixth formers getting to grips with a Rubens' ' tube. Such tubes demonstrate "acoustic standing waves through fire" - I can also reveal they force you to cover your ears due to the high pitch noise they omit.

And the academy is no place for the squeamish. Dissections are part and parcel of the science curriculum with students cutting their way through pigs, squids and fish.

They include Meghann Matthews, 17, who said: "I have done quite a lot of dissections. …