Free entry to science centre sparks interest

Programme that opened doors for Glaswegian pupils proves popular

Elizabeth Buie

A programme that gave all primary and special schools free entry to the Glasgow Science Centre has seen uptake rise by two-and-a-half times - 6,500 to 20,000 - in a year.

The Glasgow Free Schools Initiative, which received pound;50,000 from Glasgow City Council, a further pound;35,000 from the council's education services department and pound;25,000 from the Scottish government for free transport, was a recognition that schools often struggled to find money to pay for visits to the centre.

"This is compounded by schools tending to ask for parental contributions to fund trip costs, resulting in schools in areas of deprivation being least able to visit," said a GSC report evaluating the success of the initiative.

A spokeswoman for the science centre said that, in line with its remit as the centre for public science engagement in Scotland, it wanted to enable all schools to visit.

The aims of the programme were to:

- maximise access for schools and school children, regardless of socio- demographic background;

- deliver a formal, Curriculum for Excellence-aligned science learning experience;

- support teachers and advocate the learning of science in schools;

- provide pupils with an experience that was beyond what could normally be achieved in the classroom.

Many teachers reported that the visit was more than just "a free trip" as it fitted well with CfE and covered several areas of the curriculum, including the solar system or space, physical activity and health, and the Olympic games.

Others, working in areas of high deprivation in the city, said their pupils would not have been able to visit the centre, had it not been for free entry.

"Families don't have the money," reported Eastbank Primary in Shettleston.

Teachers also reported that the visit inspired some practical ideas for classroom work. Staff from Mosspark Primary commented: "The planetarium gave children the chance to see the sky at night and you don't get the chance to see the stars etc in Glasgow because of the light pollution."

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Elizabeth Buie

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