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School pupils in Newcastle are among the beneficiaries of the Community Partnering Fund, a grant scheme delivered in partnership by Northern Gas Networks (NGN), Northern Powergrid and Leeds Community Foundation.

Success4All, an education charity that helps children and young people achieve their full potential, received funding to elevate engagement in science-based subjects in schools in the North East. It used the funding to develop and deliver a new, six-week Energy STEM Challenge project, designed to engage and inspire pupils. It provides unique opportunities for pupils to explore ‘real-life’ science and take part in hands-on learning activities.

The Community Partnering Fund is awarded to grassroots projects and third-sector organisations across the North of England that demonstrate an innovative approach to sustainability, encourage interest in STEM subjects and career opportunities, assist with hardship associated with fuel poverty, and those that promote knowledge of energy efficiency and home safety.

Following funding, four schools have signed up to take part in the Energy STEM Challenge project to date, benefiting 52 children in Newcastle. Participating schools are provided with a package of activities by Northern Gas Networks and Northern Powergrid that aid teachers in lesson planning and provide practical learning with a focus on energy and electricity. The challenge offers a platform for pupils to acquire new skills and ways of thinking, covering key curriculum topics such as where electricity comes from and how circuits, conductors and insulators work.

Success4All provides learning hubs, clubs and summer schools to help increase opportunities and support available to youngsters. Kirsty Hayward, STEM Engagement Manager at Success4All comments on the success of the project:

“The response we’ve had so far has been fantastic. Science at primary school doesn’t have much of a practical element, so putting these ready-made, packaged activities into schools greatly assists teachers in creating engaging learning experiences, as well as supporting children’s development through hands-on exercises.

“What sets the Energy STEM Challenge project apart from standard learning is that it also encourages young people to consider real-life challenges and problems that apply to the world outside of the classroom, such as ‘what would we do without electricity?’ and ‘how can we find innovative ways to produce energy efficiently that lower the impact we have on our environment?’.

“One school group has fully completed the project so far and has taken part in a trip to Northern Gas Networks’ Cannon Park site to see gas holders in person, as well as learning about the history and undertaking a hazard-spotting exercise.

“The Community Partnering Fund not only allowed us to develop the challenge but aided our yearly Fun Day, our end-of-year event with games, arts and crafts for the local community. This year we added a story-telling element about energy at home, how to stay safe and what we can do to look after the environment. It has boosted the confidence of the children involved by challenging their ideas and pushing them to think in new ways.

“The fund was interesting to us due to the interest in STEM subjects. To have the support from companies like Northern Gas Networks and Northern Powergrid who are visible, well-known in the community and whose teams are willing to get involved themselves was an ideal match for our programmes. We’ve reached over 200 people with this initiative, with more ideas in the pipeline. We’re very excited to see how it develops!”

The latest round of funding available through the Community Partnering Fund is now open to applications, and charities and community projects such as Success4All are invited to come forward before midday on 15 October.

Applicants have the potential to receive a share of a grant distribution worth more than £100,000 across two phases. The first phase will award grants of between £1,000 and £10,000 from a £50,000 fund pot, with £50,000 previously awarded in the Spring).

Kirsty provides the following advice to those considering entering for the first time:

“The Community Partnering Fund is a brilliant initiative and you would be surprised at the amount of support available. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and by engaging in a conversation we were able to involve the team at Northern Gas Networks directly in our course programme. The funding enabled us to deliver the programme we had designed and elevated our activity by allowing us to add extra topics and elements to the programme.

“Attend the welcome event to meet those who are taking part. Hearing from other organisations was fascinating and eye-opening as to the amount of great work happening locally in our region.

“Communities have a responsibility to push the sustainability agenda forward. Incorporating interactive science activities into a community event helps to make energy efficiency fun yet practical. Together we can really make an impact and motivate change.”

For more information, search for #CommunityPartneringFund on social media, or visit www.leedscf.org.uk/community-partnering-fund to apply.