Q1. Is a reasonable amount of the school budget spent on science and maths equipment and facilities?

Why this is important

  • Practical work in science increases9 engagement and interest of students, can help to motivate them to achieve their best and can increase their interest in science-related careers. An Ofsted report from December 2013, ‘Maintaining Curiosity’, listed practical science as one of the most effective approaches to stimulate interest in science, and in turn raise achievement
  • It helps students develop a range of practical skills, science knowledge and understanding.
  • It is important to prepare students for the practical component of science-related subjects at university, and science-related employment.  Universities18 and employers19 increasingly complain about the poor practical skills of their new entrants.

Benchmarks

SCORE (Science Community Representing Education) has produced detailed information35 on equipment and consumables that schools should have as part of their science provision.

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.

School 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, some of whom may be able to donate their used equipment to schools.
  • 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).

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