The quest of government department of educational (DfE) to increase the science base of the UK is meeting with disdain in primary schools. The increasing dominance of manufactures from the Far East has significantly eroded the production skill base of the UK. Our future will feature heavily on the design, engineering and science skills that we must induce within the next generation. Yet this concept has met with a damp squid right at the start.
No small wonder as the science teaching skill base is under resourced to meet the government’s recommended two hours of science lessons a week. There are around 25,000 primary schools in the UK that are teaching 4.2m kids. The chance to influence say 10 per cent of children to ultimately get involved in science as a career should generate 420,000 scientists . The reality is hugely different The emphasis on science in primary school has been in sharp decline with around 33 per cent of schools failing to hit the two hours minimum target. This is partly due to the competence of teachers, the majority of whom do not feel confident to teach science.
John Crickland, CBI director general said ”If we are not careful, too many children will have lost interest in science before they hit their teens. A lack of science, technology, engineering and maths skills are already holding back economic growth, and this will only get worse if we don’t energise the next generation.”
Schools need to inspire children and the ideal opportunity is to achieve this when they are young. Initiatives such as STEM science, technology, engineering and maths cross curricular activities seek to improve the awareness of science in secondary schools, especially in projects such as the Thrust 2 land speed record attempt. But there must be an emphasis on providing the kindling in primary schools, but herein lies a conundrum. If you are a science graduate would you seek employment in primary schools where your skills will only be used for two hours a week per child. Other targets in the school may also swamp your efforts. If the science graduate does not seek to become a teacher then the subject has to pass to another less able teacher who understandably may lack the knowledge and critically the enthusiasm to present the subject in an inspiring manner.
Research has indicated that maths suffers the same stark resource misfit. Children can spend their entire schooling journey up to age 15 without being taught by teacher qualified in the subject. Science could be going the same way and will leave the UK desperately short of a critical resource for the future economy. Something to replace our growing reliance on the service sector where the banks have proved the commercial insecurity this will generate.