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Learning to take flight

Science educators hunt for new ways to put risk, excitement and creativity back into teaching at a four-day symposium in Leeds. Jon Slater and Dorothy Lepkowska report

Weaknesses of science teaching, lack of professional development opportunities and the impact of recent fossil discoveries on theories of life's evolution were the hot topics in Leeds this week.

More than 3,000 science teachers and experts from around the world gathered to share their work at the Association for Science Education's annual four-day conference.

Key figures included Mike Tomlinson, the former chief inspector of schools, and Lord Robert Winston, the TV scientist, and archaeopteryx, the feathered reptile which has been dubbed as being the Jurassic period's missing link between dinosaurs and birds.

International delegates were expected from a range of countries including Hong Kong, Nigeria and Iceland.

Derek Bell, ASE chief executive, told The TES before the conference that he wanted one of the five days allocated for teachers' professional development to be reserved for improving subject knowledge.

"If teachers are not up-to-date then they are put in a difficult position when children ask about new developments," he said.

Other notable events among the 380 sessions included celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the work on relativity and quantum mechanics that won Albert Einstein the Nobel prize.

And archaeopteryx? The earliest known flying bird, which lived in the Jurassic period about 147 million years ago, will be one of the stars of a talk given by Dr Sarah Gabbott, of Leicester university.

She will explain how recent fossil discoveries have changed our view of evolution.

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