Portal to new possibilities

John Holman opens the doors of the National Science Learning Centre.

Tony Blair recently called for Britain to become "the best place in the world for science". No doubt science teachers around the UK pricked up their ears at this news, as great science teaching is the first cog in the wheel to make this a reality. Nice to know that your work is crucial.

So how do we go about achieving this aim? Well, one way is to provide great training for science teachers - and this is where Science Learning Centres come in. The national network of Science Learning Centres has been created specifically to offer professional development for science teachers and technicians across all spheres of science education, from primary to post-16. The aim is to reconnect teachers with the frontiers of their subject and the latest techniques for teaching it.

The first courses began at the Science Learning Centres around the country in autumn 2004, and more than 100 courses are now on offer in the UK, including topics such as ICT and primary science; running a space camp for key stage 2 and 3 pupils; citizenship and ethical issues in biology; methods of teaching socio-scientific issues at key stage 4; and delivering and managing out-of-classroom activities safely.

Although fees are charged, each centre has the ability to offer discounts and incentives to ensure that teachers and technicians from all schools can attend. During the current launch period there are generous subsidies available, and some centres are running free preview courses.

Also new on the scene is the user-friendly portal. When fully developed, this personalised online learning environment will help to identify professional development needs; highlight courses across the network that can meet those needs; and bring teachers together with other science educators. It will also provide a personal learning space, which can be customised, an interactive diagnostic tool for identifying training and development needs, and the facility to create your own e-portfolio. In a nutshell, it remembers who you are and what your preferences are and helps you to find the best ways of developing your skills.

The first phase of the portal is now up and running and the full functionality will be available by the end of 2005.

Science Learning Centres recognise that there is no point in reconnecting the teacher with the frontiers of science unless they can take something practical back to the classroom and equally that, as science teachers, it would be ideal to revisit the amazing side of the subject.

So what's the answer? In short, Science Learning Centres has come up with courses that mix inspiration with practicality and exciting experiments with sound pedagogy. The real goal is to help to make science teaching more inspiring in school, to increase motivation about science among students, and to raise their aspirations.

The bottom line is to help to improve results - oh, and while we're about it we might be able to make Britain the best place in the world for science.

Register online at www.sciencelearningcentres.org.uk, or tel: 01904 328300 for more information. Visit us at stand SS76 at the ASE Annual Meeting in Leeds from January 6-8 Professor John Holman is centre director at the National Science Learning Centre

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