F1. Is a sufficient proportion of the school budget spent on science and maths equipment and facilities?
Why this is important
A high quality science education should include well-resourced practical work using scientific equipment where appropriate. Practical work is an essential component of science education, as discussed in question T5.
The list is broken down into the following categories:
- Equipment type (consumables, general, glassware, IT, modelling, safety etc.)
- Curriculum category (electricity, plant biology, energy, microscopy etc.)
- Whether the school requires a single item, a class set, technician support or mains electrical power
In a report36 using a representative sample of English secondary schools, the average per student spend on science for 2011/12 was £11.16 for secondary schools and sixth form colleges (with state schools spending an average £8.81 and independent schools spending £27.29). Overall, the percentage of science budget spent on different areas was 39% equipment, 27% reprographics and 13% textbooks. Of course, schools budgets differ, and these averages may not be ideal; it is important to ensure that a sufficient proportion of the budget is spent on science and maths.
It may be useful to ask your head of science what proportion of the budget is spent on science and in what different areas, recognising that the budget might vary year to year if significant hardware is invested in.
Ideas for improvement
- School leaders and governors need to decide together how to allocate resources between the competing priorities of the school. CLEAPSS have produced several buying guides for more expensive equipment to provide advice on the best value for money.
- One way of making up for lack of equipment is effective collaboration between schools, sharing equipment where possible, and building links to local employers and universities.
- Many enrichment activities enable students to get hands-on experience with expensive equipment (e.g., Hands on DNA, ‘Spectroscopy in a Suitcase’ from the RSC, a recent partnership to inspire young people in the physical sciences from the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Association for Science and Discovery Centres).
Other questions in Facilities
- F2. Are there sufficient specialist science laboratories in which hands-on practical work can be carried out?
- F3. Does your school employ an adequate number of full time equivalent laboratory technicians?