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Last Updated: Friday, 16 March 2007, 16:01 GMT
Fears 'ban classroom experiments'
Science experiment
Experiments are governed by clear safety guidelines
Science experiments are being banished from many classrooms because of fears of compensation claims, say scientists.

The Institution of Chemical Engineers, which helps promote science in schools, said many primary teachers feared being sued in the event of an accident.

Teachers also avoided practical science because of misunderstandings about health and safety guidelines, it said.

The institution's chief executive Dr David Brown said accidents were far more likely to occur in the playground.

Clear guidelines to ensure pupil safety in the science lab were in place but primary teachers needed the right training to have the confidence to conduct experiments, he added.

In order to really engage kids with science we have to have some good imaginative demonstrations
Dr David Brown
Institution of Chemical Engineers

Dr Brown said: "There's a general reluctance on the part of primary teachers who don't have science training themselves to embrace anything that might be perceived as having a risk associated with it.

"But it is perfectly possible to do these experiments in a way that doesn't pose an undue safety risk.

"In order to really engage kids with science we have to have some good imaginative demonstrations whether that's with things that go bang or understanding aspects of how plants and animals behave.

"You can do a lot of good science with food and drink, for example," he added.

The institution, which works with 600 secondary schools and 100 primary schools in the UK, has received reports of teachers being reluctant to use lighted candles in demonstrations about the role of oxygen in combustion.

'Common sense'

They have also avoided demonstrating simple electrical circuits using low voltage power sources and pupils have been prevented from "pond-dipping".

The institution called for common sense in the classroom and more interesting experiments to inspire the next generation of scientists.

Dr Brown called for more training of primary teachers so they could have the confidence to carry out experiments and follow health and safety guidelines.

He also called for all primary schools to have a science graduate on their staff.

A survey carried out by the Save British Science campaign in 2004 suggested more than half of heads of science said they had cancelled practical experiments because of the danger of injury from disruptive behaviour.

The claims are backed by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts which says although experiments inspire young scientists many teachers are put off by safety rules.




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