Page last updated at 11:43 GMT, Monday, 11 August 2008 12:43 UK

CBI wants more pupils in science

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The CBI says there are too few young scientists to meet the needs of industry

British business leaders want all brighter teenagers to take three separate science subjects in secondary school.

The Confederation of British Industry wants separate sciences to be the norm, rather than combined science.

England's education ministers say those who do well in tests will now have an entitlement to separate sciences.

In Scotland, a science baccalaureate is being introduced to try to boost pupils' science knowledge.

The move in Scotland comes after the annual survey of achievement - focused on science in 2007 - suggested primary pupils were not reaching the expected standard.

The CBI says there are not enough young scientists to meet the needs of industry.

Its report talks of the need to strengthen science in the UK - though it refers entirely to the education system in England.

'Not forced'

In England the government has promised that from September students getting Level 6 or above in their science national curriculum tests, aged 14, will be "entitled" to study triple science.

The question is whether our fellow citizens will do more than just pour concrete
CBI director-general Richard Lambert

Under the CBI's proposal, they would automatically be opted in to triple science GCSEs.

"Students would be encouraged to broaden their science education - but would not be forced to do so," the CBI said.

"The choice to opt out and take double science would remain."

It said the policy would affect some 250,000 14-year-olds a year in England.

A likely problem would be the shortage of specialist teachers - highlighted in a report from the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham.

Clever children are ostracised by a media that portrays scientists as white coat clad "geeks"
KO, Barnsley

Another CBI idea is to offer bursaries of 1,000 a year to science, technology, engineering and maths graduates to help pay university tuition fees, which apply in England and in Northern Ireland.

It said this would cost about 200m a year but would "reflect the importance of these skills to the UK economy".

'Fascinating career'

CBI director-general Richard Lambert said: "Young people are missing out. They are doing better than ever in science tests at 14, but hardly any are going on to study triple science GCSE, despite the opportunities and learning it offers.

"We need to create an environment in schools that reflects the importance of science, and the value of studying it.

"We also need to send an unambiguous message to young people who are good at science that science as a career can be fascinating and worthwhile, and will reward you well."

He said scientists were needed to work on projects such as the 16bn London Crossrail scheme and a potential new generation of nuclear power stations.

"The question is whether our fellow citizens will do more than just pour concrete," he said.

England's Schools Minister, Jim Knight, said increasing the number of young people choosing to study science into higher education was "a top priority" but the government did not agree with the automatic opt-in.

It was working hard to increase the number of specialist physics and chemistry teachers.

"We also announced today the new group of experts who will help us to develop the science Diploma which will help prepare students for both further study and a scientific career."

This is one of the new Diplomas in academic subjects - which the CBI opposes.

Mr Knight said the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills was co-ordinating a study of the demand for science, technology, engineering and maths skills from all employers, to be published in October 2008.

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