pound;25m gift for skills centre

One of the world's largest charities will bankroll the Government's new National Centre for Excellence in Science Teaching.

The Wellcome Trust will give up to pound;25 million towards building and running the centre, in a joint initiative with the Department for Education and Skills.

A DFES spokesman said that the centre, together with supporting networks, including a number of regional centres, would enable teachers to enhance their skills through "engaging with contemporary scientific ideas, (and) training in effective teaching approaches and modern scientific techniques". More details will be announced in the autumn. Ministers are still considering the Government's funding contribution.

Pressure groups and scientific bodies welcomed the plan. Richard Joyner of the Save British Science campaign said the Wellcome Trust's funding provided "a very substantial start" for the project.

Professor Joyner, dean of research at Nottingham Trent University, said:

"The level of qualification of science teachers is a matter of serious concern. We support the centre as an innovative step to tackle a very difficult problem."

Government consultation found a positive response to the plan. But a DFES report on the consultation added that respondents thought "time, finance and effective supply cover was urgently needed to release teachers and technicians". The idea of regional centres won wide support.

Meanwhile, the Association for Science Education announced that it would be tendering to run the new centre. David Moore, the association's chief executive said the association would be delighted to work with the Wellcome Trust. He said: "The time is right to talk about how we teach, and about adding to subject knowledge."

He said that the new centre should have a residential block, adding: "A lot of in-service training does not have much impact. If you really want to make a difference, it takes several days."

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