Hawking joins British astronauts in hailing record figures for educational visits to Science Museum

09/04/2014

450,000 young people visit Science Museum on educational trips or benefit from its outreach programme, more than any other UK museum

Professor Hawking, Tim Peake and Helen Sharman stress its critical role in inspiring next generation of scientists and engineers

Stephen Hawking and astronauts Tim Peake and Helen Sharman have praised the inspirational impact of educational trips to the Science Museum after new figures showed that more young people than ever visited the museum over the past year.

380,000 young people came to the museum in the past 12 months with their school, or other groups such as brownies or youth clubs, a new record for a UK museum. A further 68,800 pupils attended shows or workshops delivered by the museum’s outreach team at schools and science fairs across the country.

Professor Stephen Hawking, who last visited the museum in November for the launch of its Collider exhibition, said: “The Science Museum helped fuel my fascination with physics. So it is wonderful to see that more young people than ever are getting the opportunity to feel that same inspiration. The museum is one of my favourite places. I have been coming here for decades. And that simple fact, in itself, tells quite a story.”

Major Tim Peake, who is preparing to travel to the International Space Station, said: “I don’t get much of a break from training for my mission, but I always try to make time for this incredible Museum. If we’re serious about tackling the national shortage of scientists and engineers, we need to expose as many young people as possible to the kind of stimulating and motivating experiences they get at the Science Museum. These figures are tremendous.”

Last month, Major Peake delivered his own dose of inspiration to school children at the Museum, joining them via the internet from Russia to ask for help naming his mission, as part of a European Space Agency competition.

Fellow astronaut Dr Helen Sharman, who visited the Mir space station in 1991, has her space suit on display at the museum. Speaking on a visit, she said: “It’s great to reflect that millions of young people have been able to get up close to my space suit at the Science Museum. I hope I’ve played a part in inspiring some of them to consider a future in science.”

Science Museum Group Director, Ian Blatchford, said: “Our learning team serve up a wondrous mix of fun and inspiration. But nobody should be in doubt about the serious contribution we’re making to the nation’s future prosperity by enthralling record numbers of young people with the possibilities of a career in science and technology.”

The overall number of people visiting the Science Museum has also breached the previous record in the past 12 months, reaching 3,342,000.

Recent highlights at the museum include: a Q&A involving Nobel Prize winner, Professor Peter Higgs and over 400 sixth-form physics students; a session for students with BBC science presenter Helen Czerski; an educational programme aimed at 2,000 teachers, with King’s College and backed by BP; and another with the Prince’s Trust, backed by musician and philanthropist will.i.am.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "Science and technical skills are important drivers of growth. That's why we support and fund a wide range of activities and programmes to get young people from all backgrounds interested in STEM subjects and careers. I hope that even more young people will be inspired by the educational and entertaining exhibitions at the Science Museum and that they will consider a career in science.”

Teacher Lucy Lowe who has been bringing groups from Anson School in north London to the museum for past four years said: “Trips here bring science to life for the children in a way we simply never could in school.

“You can really feel their excitement at the end of the day. For some it sparks a deeper interest; months on you’ll find them asking questions about things they saw or experienced at the museum. We feel like we’d be failing our young people if we couldn’t include this trip in the year.”

The most popular destination within the museum for school pupils remains the highly interactive Launchpad gallery, enjoyed by 98,000 pupils in the past year. More than 60,000 pupils watched a live show such as The Energy Show, which is running until April 11 before going on a national tour.

11-year-old Uzayr Sohail, who goes to Oakington Manor School in Wembley, said: “I enjoyed the Energy Show best, especially the explosions and experiments. I also liked the bicycles on display on the ceiling.”

For further information and images please contact Julia Murray, Science Museum Press Office, 020 7942 4328 or Julia.murray@sciencemuseum.ac.uk

Notes to Editors

Today’s figures represent a 10% increase on the previous high, achieved last year when 343,900 young people visited the Science Museum in educational groups.

When accompanying adults are included, the total number of people making educational visits to the museum in 2013/14 is more than 440,000. 341,400 of the young people visiting on educational visits were in school groups; the remainder were by young people from other groups such as brownies, cubs, and youth groups or higher education groups. The Museum’s outreach work also benefitted around 11,300 pupils in overseas schools in 2013/14.

About the Science Museum

As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement. www.sciencemuseum.org.uk