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Behind the Prep Room Door at Millthorpe School

Behind the Prep Room Door at Millthorpe School

In this series, we unlock the door to the science department’s concealed treasure, as science technicians across the UK and Ireland reveal their preparations, setup, and valuable techniques for an efficient prep room.

 

This month’s prep room is proudly showcased by Senior Science Technician Emma Frankland from Millthorpe School, a secondary school academy located in York!  A spacious school site, it accommodates 1,200 students in the age range of 11-16 and boasts 8 science labs, employs 9 science teachers, along with 2 full-time term-time technicians who work across all disciplines.

The curriculum covers key stages 3 (KS3) and 4 (KS4) in all three science disciplines, including combined science and triple science classes at KS4. The AQA syllabus is taught at KS4, while an in-house-created KS3 syllabus is implemented for students in years 7 to 9. Notably, KS3 students receive 7 hours of science lessons per fortnight, and KS4 students have additional morning/after-school and online interventions, particularly tailored for year 11 science students.

How would you describe your prep room set-up and layout?

We have two moderate-sized preparation rooms and two small extension preparation rooms spread across two floors in the science building. The upstairs area is configured as a chemical storage/preparation room, equipped with a Gratnells island for regular-use equipment and a compact wet room featuring a dishwasher and Gratnells racking storage for bench chemicals and glassware.

The downstairs preparation room, along with its extension, serves as the dry storage area for regularly used laboratory equipment, textbook sets, laminate resource boxes, and any pre-made storage trays for items such as lesson materials. Additionally, there is a small archive storage room attached to a science classroom, a spacious landing cupboard designated for departmental stationery, and a compact radioactive cupboard located on the ground floor.

Furthermore, we are fortunate to have a small technician’s office, each equipped with a computer for individual use. Our setup is centred around a dumb waiter lift and trolley system, ensuring a logical and safe storage formation for the efficient delivery of equipment to the eight laboratories. Given that we can receive up to 35 requests on a busy day each week, including textbooks, laminates, practical materials, and pre-prepared kit trays, the layout of the preparation rooms is designed to maximise efficiency for our technicians.

What is your favourite part of your prep room?

The zoning of the spaces makes it much easier to visually remember where kit items are stored, aiding us in the efficient preparation of resources, etc. The dumb waiter lift has made it much safer and easier to deliver large volumes of kit to the eight labs within our building. The view from our upstairs prep room across the entrance to the school site.

What is needing some TLC or improvement in your prep room?

The storage of larger items, such as the air track blower, Van de Graaff generator, vacuum pump, etc., can occupy significant floor or surface space. Additionally, the storage of pre-made Hooke’s Law double clamp stands, which can be heavy to lift when stored together in trays, poses a challenge.

With that in mind, what would you add to your prep room if you had an unlimited budget?

Air conditioning is needed for the summer months, particularly as one prep room lacks openable windows, and the other is situated upstairs with full sun exposure on one side.

In the upstairs wet prep room, either a portable or benchtop fume hood is required, as we currently rely on classroom ones for chemical preparation.

Consideration should be given to replacing the pressure cooker and incubator systems with autoclaves, and exploring more modern alternatives for the incubators.

What is your top tip, advice, or essential must-have for someone setting up or inheriting a prep room?

If you inherit a prep room as a new tech or are even promoted to the sole/senior tech when another colleague leaves, the best tip I could give you is to consider the layout of any prep spaces and the things you want to change for the benefit of health and safety, efficiency, and ease of working, etc. I would suggest accessing CLEAPSS to reorganise chemical stores, purchasing extra racking if space allows, and rearranging all storage areas so they have a clear purpose. Even if you’re not in a position to have multiple or separate prep rooms for each discipline, you can move cupboards and racking and colour-coordinate trays to create zones for various subjects or general kit storage.

The best advice/tip I would give you is to make use of any external training you have the opportunity to attend from CLEAPSS or the National STEM Centre on running a prep room; it provides so much inspiration. I would also say, however you construct your prep room, consider future-proofing—trays can be moved/emptied and relabelled easily if a syllabus changes. If items are stored in easy-to-reach/move positions, you can continue in your role safely for a long time.

 

Thanks Emma, for sharing with us your amazing prep room, tips and set up!

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