Education is central to the objectives and activities of the Progress Educational Trust (PET). The beneficiaries of the charity's educational activities include students and academics ranging from secondary school level to postdoctoral researchers and practitioners, as well as members of the lay public.
Education forms a key aspect of PET's public events, print publications and flagship publication BioNews, each of which is aimed at improving public and professional understanding of genetics, assisted conception, embryo/stem cell research and related areas. Substantial time is dedicated to audience questions and comments at each of PET's public events, allowing attendees to request information and clarification from panellists and other experts. BioNews incorporates a Glossary of key terms for lay and younger readers, with glossary definitions appearing both as hover boxes for uninterrupted reading, and hyperlinks that take you to the glossary.
Since PET was founded in 1992, many of its initiatives have involved schools. Since 1996 it has maintained a close relationship with Jeans for Genes, a UK campaign to raise funds for the charity Genetic Disorders UK, with PET compiling school resource packs and contributing to educational material. PET has also created its own school resource pack as part of its project Spectrum of Opinion: Genes. After piloting use of the pack in Robert Napier School in Gillingham, PET has made the pack freely available for anyone to read and use, both as a .pdf document (605KB) and in an online version.
PET aspires to identify and train the next generation of science writers. This is achieved through through the charity's internship scheme, which trains PhD students in the art of science and news writing, and through the broader pool of volunteer writers who contribute to BioNews.
In addition to PET's own events and initiatives, PET and its staff also perform educational and outreach work through involvement in the events and initiatives of other organisations. For example, in recent years:
- PET has exhibited at the British Society for Gene Therapy's public engagement days for schoolchildren, where PET Director Sarah Norcross has presented on public and media perceptions of genetic research.
- Sarah Norcross has also given presentations on science writing to students at King's College London and University College London.
- PET has exhibited at the annual conference of the British Society for Human Genetics, where PET Science Editor Dr Vivienne Raper and PET Adviser Dr Jess Buxton have given presentations on how scientists can engage with the media.
- PET has exhibited at the Fertility Show, a popular event for those who want information and advice on fertility, where PET staff offered information and resources to patients and members of the lay public.
- PET Communications Officer Sandy Starr has advised on and judged debates at the Debating Matters international sixth-form debating competition, and has visited Havering College of Further and Higher Education to advise its debating team.
- PET has advised playwright Donna Williams on her play Many Shades of Disappointment, which concerns a deaf woman - living in a hypothetical future where the selection of prospective children's characteristics is more technically advanced, legally permitted and widely opted for than at present - who attempts to ensure that her child is also congenitally deaf. When this play was performed at London's Drill Hall theatre as part of a showcase by the deaf-led theatre company Deafinitely Theatre, Sandy Starr participated in a post-show question-and-answer session on the issues raised by the play.
- Sandy Starr has also appeared, representing PET and its Spectrum of Opinion project, in the film Designing for Disabilty: Autism made by the National Building Specification for its Learning Channels resource.
A brochure about PET and its activities can be downloaded here (.pdf 329KB).