Building Bridges: Department of Chemistry leads University-wide collaborative project working with primary schools

Building Bridges: Department of Chemistry leads University-wide collaborative project working with primary schools

The Department of Chemistry is heading up a collaborative project to support primary school students’ successful transition to secondary school by boosting their academic motivation and engagement.

Building Bridges programme visits a primary school

The Building Bridges programme visits a primary school in Gloucester.

Building Bridges is a partnership project between the Department of Chemistry; Wadham, Balliol, Hertford and Worcester colleges; the Oxford Botanic Garden and Arboretum (OBGA); the Ashmolean Museum; and the Departments of Physics, Earth Sciences and Materials. The project is part-funded by the Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) Chemistry for All fund.

The partnership project's initial phase is working with primary schools based in Gloucester, in an area that sits within the top 10% of most deprived areas within the UK. Working with teachers and teaching assistants, and with the support of a local state secondary school, the project provides free “OXbOX” practical kits and training to support the teaching of Key Stage 2 (7- to 11-year-olds) science curriculum at primary.

Thank you for such an exciting, well-organised, informative, interactive science presentation to our Year 5 and 6 pupils. A great way to kick off British Science Week! There was lots for both staff and pupils to reflect on, thinking about our responsibilities and connections to our planet and how important science is in contributing to that.

Cheryl Beardshaw-Brown, Science Lead, Tredworth Junior School, Gloucester

The children absolutely loved the demonstrations and the feedback from staff was excellent. The children were gripped the entire hour and now we have a lot of inspired future scientists! The importance of our planet was massively highlighted throughout the demonstration and the children now have a much clearer understanding of how to look after our future.

Jake Wellington, Science Lead, Linden Primary School, Gloucester

I learnt a lot from the science assembly, especially about the amount of carbon dioxide on Earth and the problem it is creating. I felt like it was explained in a fun way, using four of our senses.

Year 6 pupil, Tredworth Junior School, Gloucester

Additional funding provided by Wadham College and the RSC has allowed the development of an enrichment strand, which promotes an understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Maths (S.T.E.A.M.), with a particular focus on Chemistry. In its pilot phase the project is focused on two themes: Green Planet 2023, in association with OBGA, and Colour 2024, in association with the Ashmolean Museum. As part of this enrichment, students will consider the diverse range of careers associated with these themes.

The Green Planet 2023 theme kicked off in British Science Week, with science assemblies focused on Climate and Energy, Food, and Medicines. The enrichment strand will continue with cross-curricular lesson activities for teachers to use in May and June. In the summer, Year 6 and Year 7 students will travel to Oxford for an enrichment day, visiting the Botanic Garden and Oxford colleges and working with University staff and students.

Building Bridges programme sets up at a primary school

Saskia O’Sullivan, Building Bridges project lead and Educational Outreach Officer in the Department of Chemistry, says:

We know from longitudinal studies that young people will formulate ideas about their future selves and careers early on, and that high quality enrichment and learning in the primary phase has an impact on attainment at age 18. Our project aims to support teachers in the incredible work they do to raise students’ aspirations, academic motivation and engagement to facilitate a successful transition to the secondary phase.

Dr Hugh Munro, Acting Tutor for Access at Wadham College says:

We’re delighted to be working alongside colleagues from the University’s access community. We hope this project becomes a scalable example of how universities can partner with primary and secondary schools to support the brilliant work they do every day.

If you are interested in discussing the project, or supporting Building Bridges to help provide more support for school pupils, please contact the project team via