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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 March 2007, 10:45 GMT
After-school science clubs boost
Young teenagers are being encouraged to take more interest in science and engineering with support announced for after-school clubs.

The Department for Education and Skills is providing 5m to fund science clubs in 250 secondary schools in England.

The clubs are intended to spark inspiration and to foster long-term interest in subjects such as physics.

Employers have been concerned at the shortage of science and technology skills among the workforce.

This pilot project will give after-school clubs 17,000 backing spread over two years - with the aim of reaching 5,000 pupils.

"After school science clubs like this will play an important role in helping to inspire our young people to be the scientists of tomorrow," said the Science Minister, Malcolm Wicks.

'Competitiveness'

"We face important challenges today such as climate change and competing in the global environment. The importance of science and innovation to our economy and the wider world cannot be over-estimated," said the minister.

There have been warnings from employers about skills shortages in the workforce - and some science departments in universities have struggled to recruit students.

And the Higher Education Minister, Bill Rammell, said it was "crucial that young people are inspired to study science at an early age".

"A strong supply of scientists, engineers, and technologists is essential for our future competitiveness," he said.

The project will be co-ordinated by the Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics Network - and its programme director, Pat Langford, said that the science clubs would allow employers to "engage directly with their employees of the future". There have been longstanding concerns about the difficulties in engaging pupils with science subjects - and in finding sufficient specialist teachers.

A report published in the autumn warned that a shortage of physics teachers was contributing to a serious decline in pupils taking the subject at A-level.

Last week, head teachers' leaders complained that 250m promised to refurbish secondary school laboratories had not been made available.




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