Editor's comment

27th February 2009 at 00:00

Let's hope the science marketing campaign, launched by Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop yesterday, is not a case of striving mightily to produce a mouse. We are all for techniques aimed at turning pupils on to science; pain-free leg-waxing and a guitar that tunes itself may do the trick. That is, after all, what science festivals are about: start with the quirky and hope it will reinforce curiosity.

It is interesting that the campaign is focusing on secondary pupils, because primary youngsters already find science "cool". Yet it is in secondaries where the uptake in the later years is significantly higher than in other parts of the UK. And it is in primaries where the need to invest in the science curriculum and teacher development is greatest. There are also too many discontinuities for primary pupils as they transfer into secondary.

A public campaign which lays the groundwork for action in schools is laudable, but it is not a substitute for action. As a response to the recent "alarming" showing of Scotland in the international Timss science study, this week's initiative is no answer. Although the Government has pumped millions into science education and has made a priority of primary teachers' CPD to boost their confidence and expertise in teaching it, there is clearly much more to be done.

To be fair, Ms Hyslop has acknowledged this and is convening a summit to discuss the issues. Whatever package emerges, it must include the elements which Jack Jackson recommended in these columns last month - seeking lessons from the good school science departments, appointing extra science teachers to secondaries specifically to develop work in primaries, perhaps establishing "centres of excellence" in some schools (mooted under Jack McConnell's administration).

These are the fundamentals which will make a difference. They will also be a lot more expensive than a Pounds 350,000 marketing campaign. There's the rub.

Neil Munro.

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