The Scottish Schools Equipment Research Centre, which has supplied expertise and advice for 30 years, has ceased trading. Closure is blamed on the financial crisis facing the new education authorities, which have been unable to give a firm commitment that they will continue funding the Edinburgh-based centre from April.
The centre provided support to teachers and school technicians in science and technology and played a key role in helping schools meet increasingly stringent health and safety obligations. An annual budget of pound;300,000, of which pound;200,000 came from the education authorities, made it "a very cost-effective operation", John Richardson, the centre's director, said.
Mr Richardson doubted whether schools would receive the same level of service.
David Standley, deputy rector at Edinburgh Academy and immediate past president of the Association for Science Education, is writing to all secondary school science departments asking them to support the centre's case.
"It is difficult to see how the new councils will be able to meet their duties to educational employees so efficiently and cost-effectively," he warns. "I value its advice so highly that its annual subscription notice to independent schools always has the highest possible priority claim on the academy science budget."
Mr Richardson stressed that the centre, which is a company limited by guarantee, is not insolvent. "The official position is that it has ceased trading, which we are obliged to do so as not knowingly to increase our indebtedness. The uncertain financial climate we face clearly carried that risk."
He doubted whether the centre could be revived once staff were dispersed. The eight employees, who are seconded from Lothian under a long-standing arrangement with the region, will be split among the four successor councils.
Mr Standley praised the centre's "singular success" in helping local authorities comply with health and safety legislation governing the use of science and technology equipment. The centre has also carried out school health and safety audits and delivered training to senior management teams.
Its most recent contribution was a health and safety booklet for 5-14 environmental studies sent to schools last autumn.
The HMI report on the sciences, published in 1994, paid tribute to "the general high quality of the work of SSERC (which) is widely recognised".