Across the world, there are many reasons for education inequality. These can include wealth, gender, geographic location and ethnicity.

Map of young participation in higher education by area for the Birmingham region. Quintile 1 (red) shows the lowest rate of participation.

In the UK, where we are based, there is a large gap in attainment for disadvantaged pupils. This is strongly linked to wealth, with pupils from the poorest families lagging 23 months behind their peers by the time they reach 16.

Inequality is also high when it comes to access to higher education. This is tracked for regions across the UK in measures such as POLAR (participation of local areas). Birmingham and the Black Country, for example, contains many regions at POLAR4 quintile 1. This represents the lowest level of young people accessing higher education.

We are passionate about making chemistry accessible to all. In 2017, we launched the ChemBOX project, sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry and University of Birmingham Alumnus Mark Astbury. This provided 10 Birmingham schools with the resources needed to run 6 ChemBAM experiments. We also visited the schools to carry out teacher training and run classroom activities. The feedback from both teachers and pupils was fantastic and you can read about it here.

Since then, we have run ChemBOX Alumni, where undergraduates at the University of Birmingham took a small ChemBOX back to their former secondary school and ran sessions.

We also worked with Phillips 66 to run ‘ChemBOX Humber‘ with 6 schools in the Grimsby and Scunthorpe region. This project was sponsored by Phillips 66 and the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Most recently, we won another outreach grant from the Royal Society of Chemistry to run a year-long project in Tamworth (ChemBOX Tamworth), working with 120 primary school pupils.