Although take-up of A-level chemistry at Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg was good, teachers wanted to encourage more students to study the subject for its own sake, rather than just as a way of securing a place on a medical degree course.
"We wanted to open the eyes of current and future students to the wealth of opportunities available in chemistry," says assistant head Helen Baker. "We wanted to modify attitudes and make science more real and relevant to their everyday life.
"There are some incredible employment opportunities available locally, with a number of major chemical firms located in Barry Docks."
The science department also wanted GCSE students to realise the value of gaining at least a C grade in the subject.
Head of chemistry Nigel Graham started inviting science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) ambassadors in to talk to students in Years 12 and 13, hoping to give them a more vocational outlook.
Then, with the help of Careers Wales and sponsorship from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), the school held a "chemistry at work" event, inviting 29 local chemistry employers to speak to pupils about apprenticeships, work-based learning and other employment opportunities.
More than 350 pupils from Year 9 and above attended the event in October, which was the first of its kind in Wales, according to the RSC.
Tips from the scheme
- Make it as interesting and exciting as possible. Participating companies sent some of their brightest young employees to expound the benefits of studying chemistry. Many of them had hands-on displays.
- Make it easily accessible. Presenters were given just 20 minutes per group of pupils to keep their interest levels up.
Evidence that it works?
Both of the school's aims for the project were met "very successfully" and teachers have already begun to see a more positive attitude to science from GCSE students on the C-D grade borderline. "Although they may not go on to study chemistry in the sixth-form, they see the point in the subject," Baker says.
Feedback from employers was also extremely positive and some students were "astounded" at the job opportunities available, she adds.
Approach: To increase awareness of the varied opportunities available to someone with a chemistry qualification
Leaders: Assistant head Helen Baker and head of chemistry Nigel Graham
Name: Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg
Location: Barry, Wales
Number of pupils: 850
Age range: 11-18
Intake: The Welsh-medium school covers the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan, including some of the most socially deprived areas in Wales. But less than 10 per cent of pupils take free school meals
Estyn overall rating: Very good (2008).