Guardian features RSC Chief Executive's Views

04 December 2007

The Guardian  featured in its letters section (3 December 2007) one from RSC chief executive, Dr Richard Pike, in which he expresses concerns and his views about the fall in UK position in the league for science teaching. 


The dramatic slippage of the UK to 14th in the league for science teaching should be seen against the backdrop of numerous (often failed) uncoordinated initiatives, and a reluctance within the whole community to stand back and look at education from an holistic viewpoint, and with transparency in planning and implementing the way ahead.

More than any other single step, the provision of more, better-qualified science teachers in secondary schools would inspire and equip intellectually a whole new generation. The government has recognised this, but nothing has become of the announcement two years ago to increase numbers by 3,000. Nor has there been much progress in investing the 2 billion necessary to upgrade school laboratories to provide an exciting learning environment.

Underlying this issue remains an extraordinary mis-match between the need for chemistry and physics teachers, and the supply from universities. Financial support to undergraduate science - the source of these teachers - has benefited from a 75 million injection over three years, but there continues to be a systemic gap between income and expenditure that threatens the viability of science departments.

Furthermore, recent talk of the new science diploma has left the educational sector perplexed, as not even key civil servants are aware of the scope, applicability or preliminary detail of this qualification to be able to engage with those involved in implementation. Good solutions are also being constrained by a lack of objective data, with 'grade drift' in GCSEs, A-Levels and university degrees, creating a false sense of national progress - until challenged by this independent assessment.

Professional bodies such as ours place high priority on delivering better teaching skills and educational materials, representing millions of pounds annum, working with government bodies, companies, schools and universities. 

But, there needs to be coherence from the very top to bring about the fundamental change for the UK to recover its position.

Dr Richard Pike
Chief Executive, Royal Society of Chemistry 

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