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Cash boost to give lift-off for science

ANOTHER pound;10 million has been found by the Scottish Executive to improve science teaching in schools. The news follows a warning from HMI that the subject is still beset by major weaknesses.

There had been fears that the pound;8 million provided last year to mark Science Year would be a one-off sum. But Nicol Stephen, Deputy Education Minister, acknowledged the concern when he opened a three-day conference on the future of science education and promised that the momentum would not be lost.

The cash will be available over three years and education authorities will be "invited" to allocate it to training teachers and upgrading equipment.

Mr Stephen made an impassioned plea for the importance of enthusing pupils with science as an economic imperative for the country and for the importance of scientific awareness in its own right.

But Jack Jackson, HMI's lead specialist in science, warned that while schools have done well for those wanting to specialise in the sciences, the policy of "science for all" has not worked. Some 70 per cent take no science at all after S2.

Science was under-represented in primaries, S1-S2 courses were weak, there were too few girls taking science after S3 and there had been a drop in numbers taking science subjects at Higher (although 8,000 had opted for Intermediate I and II).

Brian Arnold, former head of science education at Northern College in Aberdeen, said schools are now closer to a coherent approach to science from ages 5-18 but changes in teaching had to be faster, and this would not be possible if the "iron grip" of national assessment was not relaxed.

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