Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2002
140. That is close to my heart because I used
to demonstrate chemistry to young people like you. Let me ask
you about the attitude of teachersand the teachers can
switch off their hearing aidshow important do you think
it is that the attitude of a teacher has to be right? Have you
suffered bad teaching?
(Fern Curtis) Yes, I have suffered bad teaching. Not
only the attitude of the teacher towards science, but one of our
teachers recently decided she was going to leave but had to stay
on until the end of term, so she spent six weeks teaching us and
she did not care, she was quite apathetic and did not give a damn
basically, and that is really important.
141. Did that have an effect on your enthusiasm
for the subject?
(Fern Curtis) Yes, I think teacher turnover should
be looked at as well.
142. Is it important to you?
(Charlotte Whitaker) My teachers were very good but
because we were doing double award science none of us were particularly
interested in science and we were allowed to get away with a lot.
143. So they did not ignite you like the magnesium?
(Charlotte Whitaker) No. At one point my physics teacher
left from triple award science and because we were double award
they took away our teacher and gave her to triple award science
because we were not a priority. We had a supply teacher and he
did not know the course and we thought, "Why bother?"
144. A problem with supply teacherswe
have heard that one before.
(Anika Lewis) My biology and chemistry teachers were
really good but physics went to pot. Over my two years of GCSEs
I had five physics teachers and not all of them were actually
physics teachers, they were stand-ins. Since I do not enjoy physics
anyway, and I find it difficult, we were not really taught. We
kept going over the same topics again and again and we were not
really taught anything new. I think it is very important that
you get good teachers.
145. I am going to ask you a quick yes or no
answer type question. I am opening some new laboratories in a
few days' time at Liverpool University. They are space age and
everybody has their own fume cupboard and no writing up is done
in the lab, it is all done in a separate corridor alongside the
labs. The question is: have any of you ever visited a state-of-the-art
laboratory like that?
(Fern Curtis) No.
146. You have never seen a state-of-the-art
(Fern Curtis) No.
147. Charlotte, you have never seen one?
(Charlotte Whitaker) No.
(Anika Lewis) No.
148. Let me ask you next about the condition
of the laboratories in your schools. Are they modern or are they
(Fern Curtis) We have got one nice modern one and
then everything else is just disgusting.
149. One has been refurbished?
(Charlotte Whitaker) We have about six science labs
and we had one done up a year, but we have just got a grant from
the Wolfson Trust so there are laptops, but that came in after
I did my GCSEs and I do not study science
150. It is happening in your school, but too
late for you?
(Anika Lewis) At the end of my time at secondary school
we had a couple of new labs but most of the others were fairly
grotty, not very nice.
151. I am a chemist, as you have heard, and
I am very interested in people learning how to handle chemicals
safely and lots of them, some of the dangerous ones as well. Do
you feel you have had a lot of practice in handling chemicals
in your school?
(Fern Curtis) Yes, I would say so. We do risk assessment
in course work and we learn how to handle chemicals. We are not
given corrosive ones like hydrochloric acid.
152. You have heard of COSH?
(Fern Curtis) No.
153. That is risk assessment.
(Charlotte Whitaker) For GCSE we were just given basic
overalls and goggles.
154. You have not had a lot of experience handling
chemicals? Smells? Colours?
(Charlotte Whitaker) No, because at GCSE you do not
really do that.
(Anika Lewis) I would say medium. I have had some
experience but not very much.
155. Did the teacher handle them more than you?
(Charlotte Whitaker) Yes.
(Anika Lewis) Yes, when they were showing us specific
experiments and we could not get to do it ourselves.
Dr Iddon: I have enjoyed talking to you. Thank
you very much indeed.
156. Before you go, can I ask who is the most
famous woman scientist in Britain today? Do you know of anybody?
(Charlotte Whitaker) For me, she is not particularly
famous but she went to my school and went to Cambridge and she
has just won a chemistry award, and that is Caroline Wright. She
is the only female scientist I know.
157. Anyone you look up to?
(Fern Curtis) It is going to be me eventually!
(Anika Lewis) I have no idea.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.