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Renewed drive to recruit scientists

Science teachers could be paid more than their colleagues as the Government reacts to the crisis facing the subject.

Professionals could also be paid to go on training courses to deepen their science knowledge, while league tables are to be changed to emphasise science.

Thousands of high-achieving teenagers are to be given the right to study three separate science GCSEs.

The moves were among a host of new commitments announced by the Chancellor in an update of the Government's 10-year science strategy to support his Budget statement this week.

The pay announcement comes amid repeated calls from subject experts to increase pay for both maths and science teachers in the face of serious shortages and falls in numbers taking science A-levels.

At present, science recruits get pound;6,000 training salaries and Pounds 4,000 "golden hellos", but no extra pay when in the job.

Now the Government is to instruct the School Teachers' Review Body to investigate "improving" the use of pay incentives to recruit and retain teachers.

It also introduced new targets on recruiting and retaining specialist physics, chemistry and biology teachers. Ministers are to offer training providers a pound;1,000 bonus for every science trainee they recruit for on-the-job courses, while non-physics or chemistry specialist teachers will be able to study for a diploma to improve their subject knowledge.

The initiatives will also have serious ramifications for schools. Ministers introduced new pledges to "continually improve" the number of pupils getting at least level 6 in the subject at key stage 3, and of those achieving A*-B and A*-C grades in two sciences at GCSE.

From next year, league tables will change to incorporate a new measure: the proportion of pupils achieving five or more A*-C grade including two science GCSEs.

From 2008, every pupil achieving level 6 in KS3 science will be entitled to study separate physics, chemistry and biology GCSEs - if necessary through collaborations between schools.

Ministers have also pledged to increase every year the number of pupils studying A-levels in physics, chemistry and maths, raising them by 45 per cent in physics by 2014.

From this year, the Government is to pilot 250 after-school science clubs for KS3 pupils.

Derek Bell, chief executive of the Association of Science Education, said:

"Clearly we welcome the sort of commitment which appears to be behind this.

We now need to look at the details."

Teachers have already been guaranteed annual pay rises of 2.5 per cent over the next two school years.

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