IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Chemistry for All

Overcoming barriers to studying chemistry.

Pupils conducting a chemistry experiment. Photo: UCL Chemistry

19 July 2016


As the UK’s largest non-governmental funder of chemistry education, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) believes in the importance of outreach, and wherever possible, engaging people with chemistry through social science. 


Barriers to participation currently exist in the study of chemistry in the UK, with demographics such as females from challenging socio-economic backgrounds facing particular disadvantage.

The RSC aims to look beyond one-off activities to address these barriers through long-term support of widening participation programmes.


In 2014, Chemistry for All, a £1 million, five-year project has been launched by the RSC aiming to widen participation in chemistry. Working with partner universities, a number of long-term innovative activities have been developed for schools in their respective areas with low university participation, focusing on chemistry enhancement and enrichment. 

Photo: Wellington College (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Chemistry for All aims to:

  • Contribute to the knowledge base on the appropriate methodologies for studying the impact of longitudinal interventions (whether neutral, positive or negative) on target students from widening participation backgrounds
  • Inform future Government practice and raise awareness in the UK Government and university and school leadership of the barriers to progression in chemistry for target students
  • Provide insights into the success, or otherwise, of the intervention activities in overcoming barriers to progression in chemistry.

Photo: Intel Free Press (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The IOE has been commissioned to evaluate the impact and effectiveness these longitudinal activities have had on participating students, tracking their progress from year 8 through to year 12, and possibly to further study, training or employment. Researchers will:
  • Conduct annual student surveys from participating schools, and comparing the data to that of control schools
  • Interview a sub-group of students on a longitudinal basis over five years
  • Undertake ethnography in participating schools and interview chemistry teachers
  • Report on intermediate findings, and then submitting a final report in summer 2019.
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