One of the strengths of St George's is its links with the local Tooting community: we have a strong track record in inspiring young people to consider science careers through our healthcare and medical school roadshows and work experience programmes.

Now a new scheme, "Science Stars", aims to foster a love of science while boosting local pupils' GCSE grades.

In a unique programme, the university is working with Ernest Bevin College in Tooting Bec, with our undergraduates giving selected Year 11 pupils a helping hand to improve their GCSE Science grades.

A group of pupils who are working towards the compulsory Double Science GCSE exam, and who have been identified by their teachers, are receiving customised tutoring from St George’s students depending on their individual needs.

The 20-week programme was conceived by our Widening Participation team. Ernest Bevin College was chosen because it aligns with the WP team’s objectives; the school has a high number of pupils from underrepresented backgrounds as well as a high free school meals ratio.

St George’s undergraduate students are visiting the school each week to mentor small groups of science pupils. There are six tutors, each with a group of three pupils, and the work will closely follow each topic as it is learned in school. After each school science lesson, the pupils complete a pre-session quiz on an app devised for the programme. Their mentor downloads the information and sees any areas of weakness, using the information to plan the next tutor group session.

The programme has been designed with the help of education consultant Neil Gilbride. Neil is a St George’s alumnus and Lecturer in Education at the University of Gloucestershire. Neil has produced a range of materials focused on the school GCSE Science curriculum and delivered training to the mentoring students to help them deliver engaging sessions. The St George’s students have all committed to the full 20-week programme, fitting it into their own undergraduate course commitments.

Rachel Donkor, Widening Participation Officer, set up the scheme, liaising with the school’s Head of Science and Head of Key Stage 4 (years 10 and 11). She said: “Our mentors are not only good at science, but passionate about it, and that passion and enthusiasm is filtering down to the pupils. By tailoring the sessions to students’ individual needs, we hope that Science Stars will help them achieve their potential.”

Jess Bond, Head of Widening Participation, said: “We think it’s really important to develop strong links with our local schools and we are excited about this brand new project, which is the first time we are running a project that will positively impact on pupils’ attainment as well as their aspirations. We are delighted to be working closely with collaborative partners on this, including ImpactEd, an independent organisation that will be measuring not only grade difference but changes in pupils’ attitudes to science and learning.”

She added: “This will be our flagship 'raising attainment' scheme as part of our widening participation programme and we’re thrilled by how well it has started.”