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Taking the research message to schools for British Science Week 2024

SWP schools engagement visit to Clyst Vale Community College, March 2024

More than 100 young people got the chance to find out about research in health and social care thanks to the NIHR Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula’s (CRN SWP) schools engagement programme for British Science Week 2024.

The successful events, the first for the CRN SWP since pre-COVID, saw network staff hosting stands in communal areas of two schools: Clyst Vale Community College in Broadclyst; and Queen Elizabeth’s School in Crediton.

Schools across the South West were identified and approached with the assistance of Local Authority Research Support Officers and our CRN SWP Agile Research Team, who had existing relationships with some schools thanks to studies run in secondary education settings.   

During the visits, students and staff were able to ask questions and take away material related to careers in health and care research and the NIHR Be Part of Research service, which helps would-be study participants find research opportunities in their area.

Anyone visiting the stands could also take part in a quick demonstration of a randomised controlled trial, featuring chocolate buttons as the ‘trial drug’. The Chocolate Trial proved a hit with all the young people we spoke to, and along with the free branded tote bags, notepads and magazines, ensured their taste of research was something they would remember and discuss with their families and wider networks.       

The stands were manned by staff from the CRN SWP Communications, Administration and Agile Research Teams, with experienced Research Nurses on hand to lead delivery of the Chocolate Trial.

Agile Research Nurse Humberto Matos said the visits “exceeded his expectations”, and shared his thoughts on how to run even better engagement events in future. He said: “I love the idea of focusing on smaller, more controlled environments such as specific classes or groups of classes. This would allow us to delve deeper into our work and provide more meaningful experiences for the students.

“Bringing in various professionals working with the NIHR, like Lab Technicians, Pharmacists, Research Nurses and GPs, would offer great insights into different career paths and the diverse roles within research. It could really help inspire the students and give them a clearer understanding of the opportunities available in our field.

“I think there’s great potential for future engagement.”  

Senior Research Nurse Angela Willberry added: “I really enjoyed supporting the school visit. I thought the chocolate trial was fantastic and the pupils were really engaged. Only one suggestion - more goodie bags! They went down a treat.”