Lincoln's Pilgrim School science department wins Royal Society of Chemistry prize

Education prizes 2021 sharon smith team prize for excellence in secondary and further education sharon smith, glenn fyfe, sam stanier, pilgrim school amber hill base
L-R: Sharon Smith, Glenn Fyfe and Sam Stanier

The Science Department at The Pilgrim School, Lincoln, have been named the winners of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Team Prize for Excellence in Secondary and Further Education.

Nominated by their peers, the team was chosen by the RSC’s prestigious panel of judges as one of the most inspirational, innovative and dedicated groups of people in education.

Based at The Pilgrim School, Lincolnshire, the team have become some of the first winners of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s expanded Excellence in Education Prizes, following the biggest overhaul of its recognition portfolio in its history.

After receiving the prize, Sharon Smith, assistant headteacher and head of science, said:

“We are delighted to have had the opportunity to be nominated for the prize and ecstatic that we have been awarded the 2021 Team Prize for Excellence in Secondary and Further Education.

“We feel proud to have been recognised for our work in promoting inclusivity in science and the further opportunities this prize will open up to our current and future students.”

Cllr Mrs Patricia Bradwell, executive member for children’s services at Lincolnshire County Council, added: “I’d like to congratulate the team at The Pilgrim School on such a well-deserved win. They’ve made a special effort to ensure their students don’t miss out on the benefits of practical science, and it’s wonderful that they have been recognised with such a prestigious award.”

Historically at the Pilgrim School (a multi-base community special hospital school) it had been said that practical science could not be done. The team has proven that not only can it be done, but that students can be inspired, enjoy and learn from hands-on science – and they always want to do more.

To begin with, resources were a challenge for the team, including the small matter of not having a dedicated science laboratory. However, resourceful teachers were determined; firstly starting with ‘substitute’ equipment such as yoghurt pots, then moving to more traditional scientific equipment, so that students are able to use the ‘correct’ equipment for their experiments.

As Pilgrim School is a hospital school with students who have complex physical and mental health needs, including students with autism, the team enabled them to access traditional chemistry experiments by using alternative low -risk chemicals often found in the home.

Dr Helen Pain, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: “Educators are some of the most important people in the sciences, nurturing and inspiring the next generation of talent who ultimately will help us further advance understanding of the world around us and solve some of the immense challenges facing the world today and tomorrow.

“Over the past two years, educators have had to deal with circumstances unlike anything we have seen in living memory; with remote teaching and lack of access to equipment due to COVID restrictions making the sciences a particularly tricky subject to teach. What we have seen is resilience and brilliance – and our winners stand high in a particularly inspiring field of nominees.

“The Pilgrim School Science Department have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to chemistry education, and it is our honour to celebrate their considerable contribution.”

The Excellence in Education Prizes celebrate inspirational, innovative, and dedicated people working in primary, secondary, further education and higher education – including teachers, technicians and more. These prizes recognise a wide range of skills – from curriculum design to effective teaching, and from personal development to working culture. This category includes specific prizes for teams and for those in the early stages of their career.

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s prizes have recognised excellence in the chemical sciences for more than 150 years. In 2019, the organisation announced the biggest overhaul of this portfolio in its history, designed to better reflect modern scientific work and culture.

For more information about the RSC’s prizes portfolio, visit

Published: 23rd November 2021