Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, space scientist and broadcaster

Monday, January 8, 2018

Dr Aderin-Pocock is referred to as the BBC’s ‘face of space’. She presents The Sky at Night and regularly appears on science and non-science programmes. She tells us about her education.

My educational experience was quite varied. I went to 13 schools so there was a lot of chopping and changing, which wasn’t overly helpful.

The main thing for me was that I suffered from dyslexia, which made me quite disillusioned with school because it went undiagnosed for a long time. At primary school the focus was really on reading and writing, and I was slow at the first and awful at the second! But I always had really big ideas. I loved the thought of going to space, I loved the Clangers and Star Trek. It was all so magical to me. But this was the 1970s, so I was put in what they called the remedial class, and I quickly gave up on school.

One of the times I started at a new school, I was asked which set I was in and I just lied and said upper set. I thought it would be easy enough for them to move me down when they realised, but it would be much harder for me to move up. I think streaming needs to leave space for wiggle room. Kids change, and streaming means their fate can be sealed very early on.

I was lucky that I had lots of support at home. My dad always said if you work hard enough you can achieve whatever you want. When you’re five or six years old that doesn’t mean a lot, but it must have seeped in.

Then one day I remember a teacher asking a science question and I realised I knew the answer. I put my hand up, which I hardly ever did, and I got it right. That was a complete turnaround for me. Science class was where I realised my dreams about space might come true. So I started to pay more attention. As I moved on from primary school, reading and writing played less of a part and I wasn’t considered a dunce any more.

I worked my socks off and I left with 10 GCSEs, largely thanks to great teachers who helped and tutored me, showing that with a lot of support I was able to achieve my potential.

I have a seven-year-old daughter and she has dyslexia too. But schools are much more sensitive today. She finds storywriting hard, but she has lots of ideas. The teachers support her to make her spelling better, but most of all they congratulate her.

Now I tour schools in the UK speaking to more than 250,000 children about space and aliens, and it has become my mission to try and win over every kid I speak to; to try and get them excited and fired up and make the least-engaged child in the room re-engage with education. It has become my aim in life – to bring out the scientist in everyone.

  • Dr Aderin-Pocock will be one of the speakers at the Nursery World Show 2018 as part of a masterclass on ‘How children learn: inspiring, supporting, teaching’ on 2 February. Book at www.nurseryworldshow.com and see our show preview on p32.

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