Further evidence of poor school building
21 July 2008
The RSC has found that science teachers are unsatisfied with the design of new science teaching facilities in secondary schools - giving further evidence towards Cabe's recent findings that the £35 billion Government programme Building Schools for the Future will produce only mediocre schools.
This is highly concerning considering that an RSC report published almost two years ago, Improving School Laboratories?, found that where laboratories were being refurbished, only 35% of secondary school science staff had significant involvement in the design process, and in 28% of cases they described the refurbishment as unsatisfactory or poor.
Feedback from science teachers and technicians in the RSC's Guidelines for school science laboratories consistently highlights a lack of consultation in the design process, often leading to awkward or unworkable teaching environments.
Grand visions of modernisation hamper the most obvious needs of a teaching laboratory. One teacher told the RSC: "We were talked into having one portable fume cupboard - it is rubbish!
"Every time you want to use it you have to wheel it out, plug it in, plumb it in, and connect the gas and the drainage pipe. The worst thing is connecting the drainage pipe which is full of hazardous materials."
Including teachers and technicians in the design process is not only essential to developing excellent teaching facilities for science, but also avoids unnecessary expense in correcting design flaws.
Another teacher commented: "The planners had left out the chemical and radioactive store; this had to be designed in the last stage. This cost about £15,000 to put right."
The Government recently announced that "Ministers want lessons to be more exciting for budding scientists" and that "students must be able to experience the excitement of practical experiments."
This experience cannot be gained without proper facilities to teach practical science, says the RSC, and for these facilities to be realised then teachers must be included in the design process every step of the way.
Guidelines for school science laboratories should aid design and construction of new science laboratories in secondary schools. The guidelines, written in consultation with science education advisory board CLEAPSS, state that "Science staff, including technicians, should be consulted at every stage of the design and building process."
Building Schools for the Future will see every one of the 3,500 secondary schools in the country either rebuilt or refurbished - but Cabe's findings say that 80% of the more advanced school designs are "mediocre" or "not yet good enough."
The RSC's submission to the latest Comprehensive Spending Review estimated that £1.9 billion would raise all school science laboratories to a good standard.
Guidelines for excellence in school science accommodation
Published by the RSC - July 2008
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