Health and safety, it's mince

18th September 2009 at 01:00

Many years ago, I suggested in this column that the City of Dundee wasn't pulling its weight when it came to Scottish tourism. Not wishing to criticise without offering a solution, I suggested that the whole place be turned into a theme park called DC Thomson World.

This is not the place to revisit my projected scenario of cartie rides and bucket seating. Today I come to praise Dundee, not to bury it under megatons of hypothetical mince and tatties.

OK, it's a piece of research that originated in the city, rather than the place itself that I'm going to focus on, but the fact that the academics involved were based there is justification enough. Susan Rodrigues and Divja Jindal-Snape surveyed more than 500 14 to and 15-year-olds from a variety of schools and found that the majority of them had a great experience in school science. You can read all about it in The TESS archive.

They discovered that the greatest factor in turning children away from careers in science was parental influence. I have not seen the questions that were given to the pupils, but I suspect that they were the right ones to ask. Must be something in the water.

I wonder what was in the water in Kilmarnock the day that Jack Perry, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, claimed that health and safety constraints were making science lessons dull. He said some good things about the importance of science, but this was spoiled by stuff that would not have been out of place had it been inserted into Monty Python's famous "Four Yorkshire Men" sketch. "Aye, when I were a lad, science were more fun. We got to blow stuff up in the lab, and there were none of this namby-pamby wearing of goggles."

Read the piece on BBC online and you will see that the only thing I'm making up is the Yorkshire intonation. Was science really more fun in the old days because there was a greater chance of permanent eye damage?

A challenge to those who believe that health and safety is making school science dull: take 500 randomly-selected pupils. They don't have to come from Dundee, a city that, in all seriousness, more than pulls its weight when it comes to science. Find the ones who think science is dull. There will certainly be some. Of those who are disenchanted, if even a tenth of them are getting a bad experience because of health and safety constraints, rather than a lack of good equipment, I'll concede that you have a valid point.

If all the mince that was talked about health and safety was spread an inch thick on the ground, it would cover a city the size of Dundee.

Gregor Steele changed his opinion about Dundee after actually going there.

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