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A report launched today shows that science education in schools suffers due to a lack of essential resources for practical work. The report comes from a teacher survey commissioned by SCORE (Science Community Representing Education), a collaboration of leading science organisations including the Society of Biology. 

It shows that on average, state-funded schools and sixth form colleges have just 70% of the equipment SCORE has identified as being essential to teach science. Levels of resourcing were poorest for biology: at pre-16, 37% of schools do not have access to all items essential for effective practical work, and this increases to 44% at post-16 level.

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

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology, says: "Practical experience is essential to help students understand science and make the link between the concepts they learn and what they experience in reality.

"To inspire and educate the next generation of biologists we need to ensure that no pupils miss out on practical experiences. Currently many schools lack vital equipment, such as microscopes and eye protection, adequate laboratory space, and sufficient support from skilled technicians."

In state secondary schools, the reported spend on practical work 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 £0.04 per student up to £19.08.

In state-funded secondary schools, an average of 28% of the practical science budget is spent on photocopying. Many teachers in both primary and secondary schools reported using their own money to provide practical equipment.

SCORE has produced benchmarks to provide guidance on what levels of resourcing should be expected for practical science. These outline the quantities and specifications for equipment and facilities that it considers reasonable to provide engaging sciences lessons.

Dr Downs says: "Budget for practical science is often a low priority, but we hope that the SCORE benchmarks will empower teachers to stand up for practical science when budgets are being allocated."

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