Invest in science via state-funded schools, not elitist centres

24th November 2006 at 00:00
The Institute of Physics welcomes the First Minister's commitment to science and his apparent willingness to invest Scottish Executive funds in the sciences in school, following his pledge to establish six science academies in Scotland.

However, the institute thinks that this money could be better spent by increasing the investment in the sciences in current state-funded schools, where there is a greater need for investment in laboratories, in particular. Also in need of funding is continuing professional development for teachers of the sciences.

Funding has been given in England for science learning centres, while the Scottish Executive has stopped its funding for the Institute of Physics teacher network co-ordinators, who give excellent CPD to specialist and non-specialist physics teachers.

The sciences should be for all pupils and integrated into the whole curriculum, not seen as elitist subjects. The great scientists of the Scottish Enlightenment had a huge interest in, and great knowledge of, English, philosophy, the arts and many other subjects - as well as science.

Scotland has a great tradition of a broad education and it would be sad and possibly detrimental to see this eroded.

We could learn from our own A Curriculum for Excellence programme, which outlines the intention "to improve the learning, attainment and achievement of children and young people in Scotland... ensuring that pupils achieve on a broad front, not just in terms of examinations".

The programme also stresses the importance of ensuring that "children and young people are acquiring the full range of skills and abilities relevant to growing, living and working in the contemporary world."

Surely this can best be done in properly funded state schools.

Alison McLure national officer (Scotland), Institute of Physics

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