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Over half of primary school teachers say science is getting squeezed out

Where are all the Isaac Newtons? The Marie Curies, Albert Einsteins and Nikola Teslas? The Jekylls, Frankensteins and Faustuses? Okay, maybe not those last three. Inspiring the next next generation of scientists (mad or otherwise) and engineers will mean teachers need to be given more support according to a recent survey from the CBI.

In ‘Tomorrow’s World’, a new report co-authored by Brunel University London, the CBI reveals that 53 per cent of the 260 primary school teachers surveyed believe teaching science has become less of a priority over the past five years. A third of them still lack confidence when teaching the subject, while 39 per cent called for a science subject specialist within their primary school.

Worse still, over a third (36 per cent) of schools teaching science at Key Stage 2 do not provide the minimum recommended two hours of science education each week, while only 20 per cent are able to commit over three hours.

“How can we expect to inspire future generations of scientists and engineers if we don’t deliver high-quality and inspiring science lessons at primary school age?” says John Cridland, CBI Director-General. “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. We must also seriously tackle the persistent cultural problem of pigeon-holing boys and girls into certain subjects and career paths. Schools can have a big impact here, influencing not just pupils but also parents.”

The CBI argues that this situation has been largely driven by the abolition of testing at Key Stage 2 and the upshot of a system obsessed with exam results, not the real-world skills future scientists, technicians and engineers need to master.

Pie Corbett