Lord Winston: science labs inadequate in third of schools

Thousands of schoolchildren are missing out on proper science lessons because of a lack of decent laboratories, Lord Winston warned today.

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor
2:23PM BST 06 Oct 2011

The fertility expert said science facilities in as many as 35 per cent of state schools were not up to scratch.

In a speech, he called for universities and private schools to step in to provide high-quality lessons.

The comments come after the publication of a report by a cross-party group of MPs that said attempts to get more children to study science to a high standard was being undermined by poor teaching and unsafe facilities.

The Commons public accounts select committee said that many pupils were not offered the chance to study three separate sciences and those living in deprived areas were “most likely to be missing out”.

Addressing the annual meeting of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference on Thursday, Lord Winston said that Imperial College London currently had a programme to provide high-level science lessons to children from local state schools.

“Of course their local school doesn’t have a laboratory that they can use; as do something like 35 per cent of state schools,” he said.

“The private sector has a real role to play. Because if we could collaborate together to set up hubs with local universities we could really change the educational process for these kids and offer them such a fantastic experience.

“It is really in everyone’s interests to do this.”

The comments come amid growing concerns over the state of science education in many schools.

Only 20 per cent of pupils took GCSEs in all three sciences last summer.

Almost a third of secondary schools – usually in poor areas – failed to even offer pupils the option of taking separate sciences, meaning they were far less likely to study them beyond the age of 16.

In the recent select committee report MPs also said there was evidence that science facilities were “unsatisfactory and even unsafe” many secondary schools but the Government has abandoned targets for improving crumbing laboratories.

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