The decline of the Bunsen Burner

By Phil Scullion

Scientists of the future are being discouraged by over-zealous health and safety concerns at school, a committee of MPs has said.

The Commons science and technology committee's report found that health and safety was often levelled as a "convenient excuse" for declining practical experiments and trips.

However the committee concluded that there was no credible evidence to support a decrease in practical experiments and work outside the classroom on these grounds.

"We heard evidence that the pressures of managing a busy curriculum, challenges in finding time for specialist continuing professional development, or time to get out of the classroom, are all factors contributing to a decline in the quality of practical science. This is worrying,” Andrew Miller, committee chair, said.

"If the UK is to be confident of producing the next generation of scientists, then schools-encouraged by the government-must overcome the perceived and real barriers to providing high quality practicals, fieldwork and fieldtrips."

The committee's recommendations include more focus on training for teachers after they enter the profession to keep their knowledge and practical skills up to date, a better inspection regime for science facilities and more coherence in the provision of science educational materials.

MPs also urged the government to put together a detailed strategy on increasing school science participation.