Provision for practical science in schools is seriously lacking


New evidence shows that a worrying number of students are not experiencing a complete and authentic education in the sciences, due to a lack of resources for practical work.

Research commissioned by SCORE (Science Community Representing Education), a collaboration of leading science organisations, shows that on average, state-funded secondary schools and sixth form colleges have just 70 per cent of the equipment and consumables that SCORE has identified as being essential to teach science subjects.

The situation is worse in primary schools, with teachers having access to an average of only 46 per cent of the materials required to teach practical science.

The data comes from a survey of teachers at primary and secondary schools and sixth form colleges.

Secondary schools reported not having enough of some of the most commonly used equipment, such as microscopes, eye protection and connecting leads for circuits. The research also shows that many secondary schools lack essential support from qualified technicians to carry out practical work.

The situation in primary schools is similarly lacking, with the majority of schools reporting limited access to facilities such as resource areas, dark space and safety equipment.

In state secondary schools the reported spend in 2011/12 varied from 75 pence per student up to £31.25, while in independent schools funding varied from £7.18 up to £83.21. In primary schools the amount spent varied from just four pence per student up to £19.08.

Professor Julia Buckingham, Chair of SCORE, said: “Taking part in practical work is an integral and essential part of learning the sciences, but our findings indicate that teachers do not feel equipped to give their students the full learning experience that they should be able to. Practical work is being limited by missing equipment and a lack of access to appropriate facilities such as laboratories and outside space.”

 “Given the increasing control schools have over their own budgets, some variation in spend between schools is probably to be expected. But the extent of the variation we have seen suggests a worrying inconsistency in the way funding is allocated both to and by schools, which will have a knock-on effect on the experiences of their students.”

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