The demand for good scientists is a national concern and universities are keen to select the most inquisitive young minds for their science and engineering courses. The national press frequently criticise ‘A’ levels for failing to discriminate between the good and the best but it is not as simple as mere grades; young scientists are expected to be strongly self motivated as much as they are well informed.
Monmouth School has been meeting this challenge since the 1990’s, by catering for gifted and talented pupils who want to go beyond the standard education programme.
Several sixth formers have been taking short courses with the Open University through the YASS Programme. Monmouth School was among the first to offer Open University courses to pupils, starting in the late 1990’s, and the only school whose pupils successfully completed second year undergraduate courses, in Astronomy and Planetary Science.
This year Charles and William have completed S197:Understanding the Universe, Derek is studying T184: Robotics, William W is taking S196: An Introduction to Planets and Rob K has been emulating his grandfather’s passion for using a camera by taking T189: Digital Photography. Matthew, having studied SK185 Drugs, Molecules and Medicine, is now chalking up a second course SK195: Human Genetics and Health Issues. All of these courses carry undergraduate accreditation so, in a sense, some of our pupils have already started their degree programme.
Monmouth School Science Department has embarked on an exciting venture to promote science in Wales and to stimulate pupils to actively consider a career in research based science. The initiative involves sixth form pupils from both of the Monmouth Schools working with pupils from local comprehensives on practical science activities, using the facilities and expertise of the Haberdashers’ Schools. The aim is to develop many of the practical skills one would expect of second year undergraduates studying for science degrees.
Another aspect of the scheme is the potential development of links with a local university who will hopefully provide opportunities for visits and contact with staff who are actively involved in cutting edge research. The initial pilot, involving 26 pupils, has already begun and negotiations are underway for the establishment of the university link with Cardiff University. The target is to accommodate up to 45 pupils from six or seven schools in the first full year of the scheme. The involvement of the Haberdashers' Monmouth Schools in this scheme is indicative of our desire to be at the forefront of science education in the principality and to provide access for as wide a range of pupils from local communities as possible.
This year, Tom G followed in the footsteps of former pupils, such as Mark Robins, in taking up a Nuffield Bursary. The scheme provides funds to enable a student to spend several weeks of their summer break with a university department or high tech company.
Tom worked as part of magnetic refrigeration research team, under Prof. David Jiles, in the Engineering Department at Cardiff University. Tom received a certificate in an award ceremony held at Techniquest, Cardiff.
It is not just the sixth form who involved in exciting projects. While in the fifth form, William W was a finalist in a competition run by the Royal Astronomical Society. His informative and entertaining essay on the next fifty years of spaceflight won astronomical equipment for him and the school.
A second former, Noah, has been building his own radio apparatus to detect the ion trails created by meteors entering the Earth’s atmosphere. Noah is to present a talk for the Society for Popular Astronomy in early 2009, being the youngest ever speaker to appear before members of this large national organisation in London. In the meantime Noah is reviewing books, writing articles for the SPA’s journal and launching rockets near Crickhowell!