A scientist from Oxford University is igniting students’ passion for science and maths at LVS Oxford, bringing the subjects alive with exciting experiments. Dr Vanessa Cheel’s teaching now influences learners at the county’s newest school as well as postgraduates at one of the most prestigious campuses in world education.
LVS Oxford has capitalised on Vanessa’s expertise and captivating approach to science by bringing her in to teach two days each week, and headmistress Jane Straw is delighted: “What sets LVS Oxford apart from other schools for children on the autistic spectrum is that we are able to meet the educational needs of more academically able autistic students. 60% of our students are above average to high on the academic scale and so it is key for us to be able to offer the highest possible levels of education alongside preparing them for life beyond school. Not many schools – not just for children with autism, any school – can boast an Oxbridge scientist helping to make science exciting and relevant to its students”.
So why would an Oxbridge scientist give up one of her university contracts to spend two days a week here? “I could see that what the school aims to do here fitted with my belief of what science should be doing” says Vanessa, “I want to show the students that it isn’t just about passing a GCSE, it is also about learning how science fits into the real world too”. One of Vanessa’s goals is to teach LVS Oxford students scientific and technical skills that they will be able to use in the workplace after they leave the school.
And that is the crux of Dr Vanessa’s approach which is connecting so well with students at the school. They are receiving Oxford University tutorials, not standard GCSE lessons. She creates an interactive learning experience where students are encouraged to participate in lessons, engaging with topics and discussing them rather than listening to a teacher’s monologue.
Around half of the students here are enjoying Dr Vanessa’s input and working towards Science and Maths GCSEs and AS Levels, with the potential for A Levels in the future. “There are a few students here who really keep me on my toes” Vanessa reveals “they are very gifted”.
Dr Vanessa’s much anticipated lessons are not just generating academic progress at LVS Oxford, they are also contributing to the social and emotional wellbeing of young learners. Her exciting approach to science – “the students have been studying nanoparticles in my lessons and will be doing a real research project for my university outreach work making gold and silver nanoparticles” – has had incredible success in reaching out to and connecting with students who sometimes find interaction difficult. “Take Ryan for example” says Vanessa “in September he wouldn’t even speak to me. Now he talks to me like an old friend”. With engaging lessons and increased student interaction, Dr Vanessa is taking science and maths at LVS Oxford to a new degree.
My vision is employability and independent living skills for students with learning difficulties.