The Scottish Executive has rejected the idea of inducements to attract graduates into science teaching, but many of the other proposals put forward by the Scottish Science Advisory Committee are already in hand, it says.
The Executive was responding today (Friday) to calls from the committee to halt the decline in school science and create greater co-ordination of science communities across the country. Figures showed a steady fall in numbers taking science subjects at Higher level in the eight years to 2001.
The committee made 23 recommendations in its November 2003 report on science education in schools, and said that the most pressing need was for improvement in primary science and in the bridge between primary and secondary. Reporting in January this year, it made further recommendations on conditions needed to release Scotland's full potential in all sectors of scientific endeavour.
Peter Peacock, Education Minister, said: "We are already taking steps to promote science education, including providing pound;10 million over three years to buy science equipment and improve teacher training. I recognise that there is more work to be done - this report sets goals and we are working on implementing the majority of its proposals."
The Executive acknowledged the need to have a well-trained teaching workforce and said it had taken steps to recruit more science staff and invested in easing the transition between primary and secondary.
But it rejects a reward scheme or enhanced salary package to attract science graduates into teaching, on the grounds that Scotland does not suffer the same acute teacher shortages as England. Similarly, it has no plans to fund individuals seeking a career change from business or industry to pursue postgraduate teaching qualifications.
It said that vacancies accounted for only 2 per cent of the total teaching workforce, with fewer than a third of these being vacant for more than two months. Education authorities were responsible for staffing and it wanted to work with them to provide appropriate staff and facilities to promote science.
It also rejects the proposal that younger science teachers should be recruited ahead of the impending rush of retirements. "Training extra numbers of teachers well in advance would lead to employment difficulties for those concerned," it said.
The Executive's full response awaits details of its spending review. In a letter to the chairman of the science advisory committee, Jim Wallace, Deputy First Minister, writes: "It is clear that the climate for public investment in science has rarely been better. You can be assured that the Executive is considering this commitment carefully in its current spending plans."
Ministers have decided not to reopen the science centre at Irvine, because "it would not represent good value for money in relation to the number of visitors", but they acknowledge the value of science centres in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen for promoting science education.
A pound;5.1 million funding package for the four centres was announced recently for this year and next. In return, the centres have agreed to develop their educational potential.
A number of curriculum recommendations in the 2003 report on improving science education in schools are already being taken into account in the current curriculum review, the Executive says. But it rejects for the moment the idea of creating a course on science for citizenship, targeted at pupils not progressing to science Highers.
There is, it says, no room for additional courses or topics, but it will monitor the work of the 21st Century Science team in England, which is devising new courses to develop science literacy in a modern democratic society.
The question of creating dedicated science rooms for primaries is, it says, the responsibility of education authorities, which have received substantial funds to invest in equipment and teacher training. So too is the provision of science technicians, but the Scottish Executive Education Department is currently looking with the authorities at their training requirements.
Continuing professional development should, it agrees, be used to increase the number of primary teachers with a science specialism, and it is working with the Scottish Schools Equipment Research Centre. Four consortia have been established so far and another is being developed.
In response to the demand for greater support for further education colleges in delivering technology courses, the Executive says that this forms part of the review of school-college collaboration.
* Science for citizenship course
* Salary enhancement to attract science graduates
* Funding to attract people from business or industry
* Training young teachers ahead of impending retirements
Already in hand
* Ethical issues feature in environmental studies
* Grants available for specialist training in primary
* Improved CPD for 5-14 science
* School refurbishment, including science labs
* Review of FE-school links
* Work-based vocational learning
* Funding for science centres
* Regulations on teaching qualifications relaxed
* Links with the National Science Learning Centre in England Up to education authorities
* Science rooms for primary
* More technicians
* Funds for vocational learning