£1.9 billion needed for schools laboratories upgrade
12 October 2006
Vital plans to upgrade UK schools chemistry laboratories will fall a quarter of a century behind a government target unless extra money is earmarked, claims the Royal Society of Chemistry.
And, says the RSC, almost £2 billion government funding must be ring-fenced as a priority to achieve the right standard of schools labs across the country.
RSC chief executive Richard Pike said today: "Our case for faster action to improve school labs, and to assign money to the task, is powerful and incontrovertible. Without something being done to address this slippage Britain could drift to the margins of world science as potential young talent goes unexploited."
Furthermore the threatened failure to deliver government plans to improve labs will harm the country's competitiveness, says the RSC, which will publish a worrying report on the state of Britain's school labs.
"There is an acute national need to promote chemistry attractively and inspirationally at school. We have a duty to stimulate the science interest of young people and it is obvious that sub-standard, dull and bedraggled laboratories will sour the appeal of chemistry and deter them from engaging in the subject successfully."
Richard Pike added: "Altogether a total of £1.9 billion is required to raise laboratories up to acceptable standards. In our submission to the government's Comprehensive Spending Review a few weeks ago we underlined the need for that amount to be allocated and this report allows us to make the appeal once more."
The RSC campaign to upgrade UK school labs is underlined in the highly critical independent report by CLEAPSS, the local education authority and schools science advisory service, which highlights many existing shortcomings, pointing out that 65% of school labs are sub-standard or uninspiring.
The government in recent years has made a commitment to building new schools or refurbishing old ones. Its aim was to provide funding to bring schools laboratories up to a satisfactory standard by 2005-06 and to bring them up to a good or excellent standard by 2010.
But, says the RSC, it will not be until 2034 that the "good or excellent" target is achieved, taking into account the current rate of refurbishment work as well as the predicted deterioration of buildings that presently have acceptable standards.
"To achieve the government's 2010 target the predicted rate of upgrading would have to be accelerated almost four-fold," added Richard Pike. "Action is needed now.
"And we stress that it's essential schools science subject leaders are actively consulted at the design stage, actively involved in monitoring the progress of the project and consulted about any necessary changes during the project. This has not been the case in some of the refurbishment work already carried out which is a missed opportunity."
The RSC has made its submission to the government's Comprehensive Spending Review- calling for an extra £3.4 billion to fund chemistry.
Improving school laboratories?
A Report for the Royal Society of Chemistry on the number and quality of new and re-furbished laboratories in schools, October 2006
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