Chancellor's science teachers must be specialists
27 March 2006
The Royal Society of Chemistry was pleased to see the Chancellor presenting a budget based firmly on education. The RSC particularly welcomed his commitment to increasing the percentage of teachers with specialist qualifications in chemistry, physics and mathematics.
However, bringing about Gordon Brown's wish - echoing RSC policy - to make schools science stronger by having more specialist teachers, is not a simple matter. There is a problem recruiting new teachers into science posts.
The science teachers that we get must hold specialist qualifications relevant to the subjects they teach; those who teach chemistry must hold specialist qualifications in chemistry. Beyond the critical matter of teachers there is the formidable question of when long-awaited central funding will be made available to raise the standards of the country's schools laboratories.
The RSC has been pressing the Government for two years to produce the funds necessary to modernise laboratories. Having pressed the case in the run up to the 2004 Comprehensive Spending Review, we are now reiterating the case.
Schools need £1.9bn to upgrade their labs and this needs this to be done faster than the 10-15 year timescale which is in the Building Schools For the Future Programme.
In recent years the Government has made a number of gestures that gave reason for optimism yet we feel that little substantial progress has been made. In India and China the development of young chemical scientists is moving at a phenomenal rate because Governments in those countries have a realistic vision of the future in which chemistry will be central to their economies.
Now, before it is too late, we must see Britain investing in young scientists with similar foresight and vigour. The Chancellor's proposal for 3,000 more science teachers should be applauded but we will save the praise for later.
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