Generation STEM (Gen STEM) is a work experience programme for Year 10 students (age 14 – 15) aiming to develop students’ life skills and interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). By increasing students’ ability to see the relevance of schoolwork to their future careers and motivation to engage in school, the programme also aims to raise students’ attainment in maths and science. Generation STEM includes a work experience preparation day, individual student interviews, interview feedback sessions, a one-week work experience placement and a work experience debrief session.
This project was funded as part of a partnership between the EEF, the Careers and Enterprise Company and the Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Work experience placements are a common activity and there is evidence that they can have a positive impact on employability skills, motivation in education, career decision making and knowledge of the world of work. However, the evidence base on how work experience impacts on academic attainment is weak, with few robust studies. This evaluation provided an opportunity to test the impact of a STEM work experience programme on pupils’ attainment in GCSE maths and science.
Children in Generation STEM schools did not make any additional progress in maths and science, on average, compared to children in other schools. This result has a high security rating. There is some evidence that the programme had a small, positive impact on pupils eligible for Free School Meals, equivalent to an average of one additional month’s progress. This finding should be interpreted with caution, as it is based on a small sub-group of pupils and there is considerable uncertainty around the result. However, it tentatively suggests that the Generation STEM programme may have had a positive impact for pupils eligible for Free School Meals.
Generation STEM is a complex programme and a number of implementation challenges arose during this trial. The programme has a number of component parts, requires bespoke work experience placement matching for students, was delivered in a greater number of geographical regions than originally planned for and was implemented via three different delivery partners, as well as a range of local employers. These complexities made Generation STEM challenging to implement and contributed to inconsistencies in how various aspects of the programme were delivered. For instance, there was variation in how students were selected for the programme in different schools, the content of the work preparation day, employer involvement in the interviews and the format of post-work experience feedback. Inconsistencies in how the programme was implemented made it harder to evaluate the effect of this intervention.
The EEF has no plans for a further trial of the Generation STEM programme.
- Children in Generation STEM schools made the equivalent of 0 months’ additional progress in mathematics and science, on average, compared with children in other schools. This result has a high security rating.
- Children eligible for free school meals in Gen STEM schools made the equivalent of one month’s additional progress in mathematics and science, on average, compared with children in other schools. This finding should be interpreted with caution, as it is based on a small sub-group of pupils and there is considerable uncertainty around the result.
- There was no evidence in the secondary outcome data that Gen STEM had an impact on students’ attendance in Year 11, uptake of STEM-related subjects at A‑Level, ability to make future decisions, or attitudes to STEM, life, and school.
- The intervention was not consistently delivered as intended in the design of the programme and there were considerable disparities in how different providers, employers and schools delivered the intervention.
- The intervention was complex with a considerable number of component parts and was implemented very variably across different programme providers and schools. Due to the providers being unable to recruit enough schools to the programme in the target region, the timescale and the geographical regions for the programme were also extended, introducing more inconsistencies into the programme.