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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 16:29 GMT
Disruptive pupils wreck science
Bunsen burner
Too many pupils are not getting a chance to carry out experiments, says survey
Disruptive behaviour by pupils has caused the cancellation of science practical lessons in more than half of schools, claims a survey.

The Save British Science campaign has been shocked by the results of its own survey - which shows how badly behaved youngsters are stopping lessons.

The survey of heads of science found that fears over dangerous behaviour had stopped practicals in 57% of schools.

The schools were worried about injuries from substances such as acids.

Lack of equipment

Save British Science (SBS), which seeks to promote an understanding of science, carried out the survey of science departments in secondary schools in England because of fears that many pupils were missing out on practical lessons.

The survey found that more than three-quarters of schools had had to cancel practical lessons - with disruptive behaviour the most common reason, along with other factors such as lack of equipment, lack of space and too large classes.

The findings do not show how many or how often practical science lessons have been cancelled - only that at least one planned lesson has had to be cancelled because of fears over pupil behaviour or other reasons.

The discovery that poor behaviour was such a major reason for cancelling lessons has taken the science campaigners by surprise, says SBS spokesman, Peter Cotgreave.

While it might have been expected that lessons would have been disrupted, it was not realised that so many lessons would have been stopped altogether.


"If there is a pupil who is known to behave badly, and cannot be removed, teachers do not want to take lessons which could involve acids or gas burners," said Mr Cotgreave.

"You only have to have one naughty child who can't be trusted and the rest of the class will miss out on the practical lesson as well."

There was also evidence that science teachers were "modifying" lessons, if they were concerned about the risk from badly behaved individuals in a class.

As well as worrying about disruptive pupils injuring themselves or other pupils in science experiments - there were also signs that teachers were afraid of the threat of litigation if an accident occurred.

Mr Cotgreave says that practical lessons are often the way in which scientists are first attracted to the subject - and that many youngsters are now missing out on this experience.

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