Better science labs must be top priority for new and improved schools

09 July 2010

Better science laboratory facilities in schools should be a top priority in any new initiative to replace the recently-cancelled Building Schools for the Future programme, the RSC warns today.

Failure to do so will condemn teachers to work in uninspiring environments and will run the risk of losing the interest in science of an entire generation.

Research in 2006 by the RSC and the laboratory advisory service CLEAPSS found that 65% of school laboratories were sub-standard or uninspiring. The RSC calculated that it would cost 1.4bn to bring all school laboratories in England to a good standard and 1.9bn across the UK.

Furthermore, that rate of improvement was depressingly slow, with all laboratories on target to be brought to a good standard by 2034, and those that were rebuilt often lacked basic facilities, such as preparation or storage space.

Further research in 2008 showed little improvement, and, worryingly, 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.

"The fascination and excitement of chemistry comes from the ability to design and make new materials, and in investigating and understanding the properties of the materials that make up the world around us," said Dr Jim Iley, Director of Science and Education at the RSC.

"If this country is to nurture the scientists of the future, then it is essential that school students experience the excitement of practical science, and that can only be achieved by providing properly furbished laboratory environments."

Following the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future programme, the Government has set up a review of how to rebuild schools more effectively.

"Any recommendations to the Government from this review must include the requirement to provide students with an inspiring environment in which to learn science, and that environment should fully support practical experimentation," said Dr Iley. 

"CLEAPSS have issued straightforward guidelines which should be followed by all schools when redesigning laboratories to ensure that money is well spent."

Downloadable Files

Improving school laboratories?
12 October 2006 - A Report for the Royal Society of Chemistry on the number and quality of new and re-furbished laboratories in schools.
PDF iconPDF (713k)  

Guidelines for excellence in school science accommodation
Published by the RSC - July 2008
PDF iconPDF (32k)  

PDF files require Link icon Adobe Acrobat Reader

Contact and Further Information

Press Office