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Pupils in state schools in Scotland are not being provided with the science equipment and resources they need to meet the requirements of the curriculum, new research suggests.

The survey of teachers from 39 primary and 46 secondary schools was commissioned by the Learned Societies’ Group on Scottish Science Education (LSG), a collaboration of learned scientific societies and professional bodies, including the Society of Biology.

The findings indicate that the amount of money spent per pupil on science education for the Curriculum for Excellence in primary and secondary schools in Scotland is less than in England for their more traditional courses.

The average annual spend on science in 2013/14 in Scottish primary schools was £1.62 per pupil. This compares with £2.89 in England in 2011/12, according to figures obtained by SCORE (Science Community Representing Education). The situation is similar for the Scottish secondary schools surveyed, with an average reported annual spend on science of £7.33 per pupil, compared to £10.12 as detailed in the same SCORE findings.

Insufficient resources were identified as a major problem, with 98% of secondary and primary schools reporting that they have to draw on external funding sources to support practical science work. In the secondary sector, teachers commonly contribute towards normal curricular activities from their own pocket.

The LSG intends to use the findings as it engages with local and national government, schools, parents and industry bodies in efforts to ensure that school science is sufficiently resourced and supported.

Chair of the LSG, Professor Sally Brown said, “Taking part in science practical work at school is an essential part of the learning process. It demonstrates the essence of science and the scientific method as it underpins the skills that young people need and the country is seeking. Pupils report increased motivation as a result of engaging in their own investigative work and greater interest in considering science-related careers.”

The LSG is publishing the findings in its report, entitled The Resourcing of Science in Scottish Schools, at the annual Science and the Parliament event in Edinburgh today. It is the first time in more than ten years that evidence has been gathered about the funding of practical science in Scottish schools.

The Society of Biology has an active branch and regional officer in Scotland and is currently seeking to recruit from the community of biology teachers in Scotland, four part-time co-ordinators to facilitate the running of the newly established Society of Biology Teacher Network (Scotland).

Rachel Lambert-Forsyth MSB, director of education and training at the Society of Biology said, “We hope to support teachers in sharing information, in order to gather intelligence more quickly through the networks and thus provide a support system of events and networking opportunities.”

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