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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 October, 2004, 03:03 GMT 04:03 UK
'Halt science decline in schools'
Professor Colin Pillinger (PA)
The professor wants people from "all walks of life" to take an interest
Britain will run out of world-leading scientists unless the lack of interest shown in science education is reversed, one of the UK's top academics has said.

Professor Colin Pillinger, who led the Beagle 2 mission to Mars, said he was worried about the falling interest in science in schools.

Figures for this year show the number of students taking A-level sciences fell by 6.5%.

"All the indicators are going in the wrong direction," he said.

"We are a vanishing breed if we don't have people coming through the system.

If you want kids to study science their parents have got to be interested as well
Professor Pillinger
"We need two things. We need both quality and quantity. If we don't have the quantity the chances of getting the quality are very much diminished.

"You really need a lot of people doing science in order to get a proportion of Nobel Prize winners in the future."

But the Open University professor also said he received a lot of letters from schools asking him to talk to children about the Mars mission.

"If you want kids to study science their parents have got to be interested as well," he said. "Beagle demonstrated that everybody is interested right across the spectrum."

Professor Pillinger urged ministers to do more to keep Britain in the forefront of scientific discoveries and to promote space exploration.

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said science was a "central priority" for teaching 11-14 year-olds, after figures showed science test results were down this year.

"We will be retaining this focus in order to improve performance next year after the unexpected fall in this year's results," he said.

"We are addressing the need to recruit and retain science teachers."

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