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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 00:13 GMT
Science lessons hit by staff shortage
Science lesson, BBC
Science lessons could suffer say experts
Science lessons in some schools in England are suffering because of a lack of laboratory technicians, a report says.

The number of technicians needs to be increased by 40% according to a study by the Royal Society and the Association for Science Education.

One of the authors of the report, Sir John Horlock, said children's science education could suffer unless more technicians were recruited.

He said practical science lessons in some schools and colleges were "inadequate" because of the shortage. And he warned that safety could be threatened too.

Un-sung heroes

"Science is a practical subject and good quality 'hands-on' activities which involve pupils and students undertaking experiments and investigative work are an essential part of learning about science," he said.

"Without adequate numbers of science technicians, the learning experiences of students and pupils will be impaired and it will be much more difficult to raise their levels of achievement.

"The safety of school and colleges laboratories will also be compromised."

There is also a shortage of science teachers and the government is offering extra cash incentives to try to attract them.

University science students, BBC
Practical lessons are vital to development of future scientists, say experts
Sir John said ministers should remember that schools also need technicians.

The report also recommends that the government should invest 3m each year in professional development and training for science technicians in England, and that similar action should be taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The President of the Royal Society, Lord May of Oxford, said technicians were vital in science teaching.

"Technicians are often the unsung heroes of school science," he said.

"Without their expertise it would be impossible for students to gain the vital first-hand experience in practical lessons of the experimental method that lies at the very heart of science."

The report is being discussed this week at the annual meeting of the Association for Science Education, being held at Liverpool University.

See also:

19 Apr 00 | Education
Cash boost for school science labs
05 Mar 01 | Education
Firing pupils' interest in science
07 Sep 01 | Education
Earth does not move for science
28 Jun 00 | Education
2001 'year of science'
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