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Technicians are not just laboratory assistants

SCHOOL science technicians fear they have been ignored in ministers' plans to enhance the role of classroom assistants.

The Association for Science Education, which begins its annual meeting today, is worried that a government consultation on school support staff risks lumping technicians in with classroom assistants. The association has called for technicians to receive training and career development suited to their profession.

ASE chief executive, Derek Bell, said: "School science technicians are very specialised and while they are part of the teacher support team, they are not classroom assistants. They have very specific skills."

ASE has been holding discussions with the Government on the question and is also urging local education authorities to ensure that technicians are trained and go on appropriate courses.

The Government came under fire from the House of Commons science and technology committee after its chairman, Ian Gibson, claimed it had "dismissed" a report highlighting the "appalling" pay and conditions of technicians.

But the Department for Education and Skills said: "We are exploring a career structure for technicians that links job descriptions, vocational qualifications and professional development."

A recent report by the ASE and the Royal Society found that English schools were short of up to 4,000 technicians. The profession is not attracting young recruits, only 8 per cent are under 30. Without adequate numbers, laboratory experiments and hands-on-experience are under threat, the report said.

Dr Bell said: "If we are trying to improve the career structure of technicians and encourage development and training, that has implications for pay and conditions.

"If people are better qualified their pay should be appropriate to their level of qualifications."

A series of lectures and workshops for technicians will be part of the conference.

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