Ahead of the BigBang@Butlin’s, Caroline Wood, director of Coastal West Sussex Partnership, explains why not everyone in the area is as keen on science as a certain British astronaut.

Last week was a big day for everyone who lives in or around Chichester.

A special event held at Chichester Festival Theatre saw one of their own honoured with the Freedom of the City.

The humble man at the centre of attention was Major Tim Peake, the first British European Space Agency astronaut who completed a six month stint on the International Space Station in 2016.

In accepting the honour, Major Peake, pictured right, explained that his own journey, which resulted in an expedition into outer space, began in humble surroundings that many of you will know well.

Peake was born in Chichester, attended the city’s High School for Boys and became a member of the area’s Air Training Corps and has since completed a degree in Portsmouth. His parents still live in nearby Westbourne.

But the story of Major Peake is a rare one for young people growing up in the county.

Recent figures show that the numbers of West Sussex students choosing Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) topics at GCSE and A-Level is declining.

It’s the same with Higher Education too, with local participation rates across coastal West Sussex (Chichester, Arun, Worthing and Adur) poor, with many areas in the bottom quintile nationally.

In contrast, the work that we at the Coastal West Sussex Economic Partnership do in working with local authorities and businesses, shows that it is precisely in the STEM industries where West Sussex is creating growth.

Throw in the additional dilemma of companies becoming more reliant on robots – experts believe up to one in five jobs will be at risk of automation by 2030 – so you can see why there is a need to act now.

That’s why along with our many partners including STEM Sussex, we are holding the third BigBang@Butlin’s., Bognor Regis on March 8

The aim is by showing young people the fun, interesting and exciting opportunities that science and associated topics offer. it will inspire them to continue to study science subjects and pursue STEM careers in the future

With workshops, interactive displays and a fun-filled show from Science Made Simple, it is set to be an explosive day full of fun and creativity.

More than 500 pupils and 25 business are lined up to attend. The hope is the young people go away enthused and give serious consideration to the exciting opportunities that studying STEM brings.

Who knows, perhaps we may even unearth a Tim Peake or three of the future.