Around 750 students from across the UK will participate in the programme beginning in January 2022 Louis Ashworth

Cambridge fellows will be offering online learning to sixth-form students under a new scheme to help pupils from widening participation backgrounds following educational disruption after Covid. The new scheme will focus on maths and science, and is aimed at students who attend non-fee-paying schools.

STEM SMART will launch in January 2022 and hopes to help 750 students from widening participation backgrounds secure places at Cambridge and other top-ranking universities. 

Students studying Maths, Chemistry and Physics A-Level students from non-fee-paying schools will be eligible for the initiative. They must also be from widening participation backgrounds, including students who have been eligible for free school meals during their secondary education, those who have been in care, and those at schools unable to offer Further Mathematics A-Level. 

According to a press release from the University, “it aims to mitigate the disruption to education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and address the UK’s science and technology skills shortage”. 

The 17-month programme will recruit talented students from over 3,000 state schools, focusing on those with little experience of sending students to Cambridge. Fellows will mentor the students for their last year-and-a-half at school, from their second term of Year 12 until their A-Level exams in Year 13. 

The programme will offer weekly online tutorials with Cambridge academics who will set and mark work, run small group supervisions, and give live online lectures. Students will also attend a four-day residential course in Cambridge and work with a Cambridge student mentor. 

STEM SMART also aims to help students who do not intend to apply for undergraduate study at Cambridge make competitive applications to other universities’ STEM courses. 

Much of the programme’s teaching will be delivered through the Isaac Physics online platform, and will be free to all students taking part thanks to  funding from the University, Colleges and the Department for Education.   

The programme comes amidst the University’s other schemes to boost access, including an Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences foundation year beginning in 2022 and postgraduate STEM summer schools.  Several colleges have also launched sixth form mentoring schemes, such as Trinity's collaboration with the Brilliant Club.


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Physics lecturer and co-director of STEM SMART Dr Lisa Jardine-Wright, said: “By providing extra subject specific resources that just aren’t available in every school, this pilot will complement students’ classroom learning, improve their problem-solving skills, and help them get the best possible grades. 

She also hoped that the programme would “encourage those who take part to apply to study at Cambridge''.

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said the scheme helped Cambridge fulfill its “mission to contribute to society through the pursuit of learning”.

David Buckley, head of physics at Mayflower High School, an academy in Essex, described the programme as offering “the extra time and detail that teachers want to give but because of the demands of the job sometimes can’t”, and said it was “hugely welcome”.