There is not much that gets me angry outside of my personal life but when I looked into going to New Scientist Live ( partly because I wanted to experience another STEM outreach event and because it has been on my bucket list to see Henry Marsh give a talk) I almost choked with what I saw. We are constantly being told that we need more students going into STEM subjects. Told that girls are a minority in the physical sciences such as Physics and Mathematics. A quick google search will tell you the same thing ( though granted a few more articles are popping up saying STEM uptake is on the rise in A-Level but, what does that matter if they don’t pursue the sciences after 18):
Before I launch into the ranting and raving I must point out that there are schemes across the country that do cater for less fortunate families. Places like the Science Museum in London are free to attend and there are various small scale ( ok LSF, large scale as well) science festivals happening across the country of which I will put the links in here :
( I will be adding more as I find them )
The New Scientist is a well known scientific magazine of which thousands read each week. I actually bought one every week during A levels and I loved it. The magazine is pricey though (even with adverts) so I had to stop purchasing it during uni. I found out about the New Scientist Live event last year. I was gutted I could not attend as it was the weekend I went back to uni so, I decided to go this year. I was over the moon when I found out Henry Marsh was talking about neurosurgery and Tim Peake was going to be there. I could only go on Thursday but I decided one day would be plenty. So, here I go, off to buy my tickets and BAM £30 for the day.
Ok, this is not too bad but there’s a catch. You can’t see any of the main stage talks, for that you need to buy the VIP of £60. So, you get access to some other talks and the show floor but the main stage is what is bringing a lot of people to the festival.
You then look at who they are targeting. This is an outreach event, right? So families are the obvious target, the only problem? £90 for a ticket on the Saturday (again with no access to the main stage so they would be missing Chris and Xand ,two people who the kids will recognise on the day).
Ok, I will give them the pro that there are plenty of other talks going on that day , but they don’t all seem to be child-friendly (as in so a 10-year-old would understand, I’ve included a list of the talks here :
So ,you have two under 10’s with you. What do you do ? It all depends on the showfloor. Now this is where I will struggle as I haven’t actually seen the showfloor there but I have found a list of what is avaliable :
There seems to be a lot of hands on , which is briliant but there seems to be a lot of “make your own”. Now , that’s to be expected for a £90 ticket but there is a chance of things running out. Slime is amazingly popular and by day three of the festival, how much is going to be left? Im hoping that exhibitors have thought ahead but if they haven’t, a lot of families are going to be short changed. We had stalls run out of products in LSF and we were only a one-day event. There seem to be a lot of stalls relying on VR which means queues will form and children will end up disappointed because they can’t experience VR. There are also some “look and talk” stalls such as the woodland trust talking about trees and an art exhibition from which you can buy prints. Not something that is going to grab young children’s attention.
Although writing this, the price can somewhat be justified in the way of talks and stands…. I am still disappointed in the New Scientist at the price set. The sponsors they have for this festival are incredible :
They are all supporting one zone with BT supporting the main stage. It is likely that these co-operations will have paid most of the speaker’s fees so I can’t justify why the ticket is as expensive as it is. The New Scientist is probably going to get a lot of advertising out of this event as well so why the tickets are £90 per family, I still can’t understand.
Even if the £90 can be justified, this prices so many people out of this event. You can easily go to several museums in London for free and the transport will be cheaper than one entry ticket into New Scientist Live. The New Scientist Live does have offer codes ( as there is a voucher box but I can’t find any) but no incentive to get under privileged families through the doors ( LSF gave out free experiment packs to low income families). You also have to factor in transport, food, accommodation (if needed) and buying things there. This one day (one day without the main stage) is going to easily cost upwards of £150 for a family of four.
Im sitting here devastated. How can we expect less fortunate children to beleive they can acheive in the field of STEM when we price them out of even having a go with slime. There is a falling rate of students from low-income families due to the cost of degrees, and science degrees are not cheap. Textbooks range anywhere from £20-£200 and then you have to buy your own supplies like a lab coat, lab books ( which are ridiculously expensive) and scientific equipment such as a calculator (£14 at the last check). If we can’t persuade the population that STEM is open to everyone at outreach events like these, then when can we?
End Of Rant
( PS If anyone from the New Scientist is reading this blog (unlikely but I’ll give it a go) then please feel free to prove me wrong as to why the £90 is justifiable and why there is nothing that I can see to encourage participation from those worse off, my contact email is on the contact tab)