For the last quarter of a century the STIMULUS project has sent Cambridge University students into schools to work as teaching assistants alongside maths, science, technology and ICT teachers.
The students, most of whom are reading maths, engineering, natural sciences, computer science, chemical engineering or economics, gain valuable classroom experience. At the same time schools get extra pairs of hands, while the pupils learn more about studying maths or science at university.
The programme was set up in 1987 by Toni Beardon, who was later awarded an OBE for services to maths education. It began with a cohort of two students in the first term but by the following year had grown to 20. Last year there were 245 placements for students, who worked in a total of 10 secondary schools, three 6th form colleges, a special school and 18 primaries.
Latest surveys show that 56 per cent of students say they are more likely to go into teaching as a result of volunteering.
“Volunteering for STIMULUS is an amazing start for a career in teaching,” said current volunteer Carina Negreanu. “You get to try teaching at different levels and in different environments. But STIMULUS is not just about that. Each volunteer tries to have a positive influence on at least one pupil. Most of us accomplish a lot more and in the end we manage to actually make a difference.”