Massive bill for updating labs

The Government must set aside pound;1.9 billion to refurbish dilapidated school chemistry labs, the Royal Society of Chemistry said this week.

Britain will otherwise "drift to the margins of world science", the society said.

The Government is committed to bringing school labs up to a good or excellent standard by 2010, but a new report, commissioned by the society, says that will not be achieved till 2034 with current funding.

"There is an acute national need to promote chemistry attractively and inspirationally at school," said Richard Pike, the society's chief executive."

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said capital funding for schools had increased six-fold, in real terms, in a decade. "Through record levels of investment we are ensuring that we are meeting the needs of schools today while also ensuring that we have high-quality schools for the future," he said.

Brunel University surveyed 370 maintained schools. It found that the average cost of refurbishing a laboratory was pound;38,000, though it ranged from pound;2,000 up to pound;125,000 in some cases. Building a new laboratory costs between pound;11,000 and pound;375,000.

But of the 6.9 per cent of laboratories that had been built or refurbished in the past five years in pursuit of the Government's target, a third did not make the "good" grade.

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