Supplementary memorandum submitted by
The Royal Society
1. On 4 March 2002, the Education Officers
of the scientific learned societies were invited to give oral
evidence to inform the Committee's inquiry into 14-19 education.
During the evidence session the Committee requested further information
on the cost of modernising and refurbishing school science laboratories.
This memorandum provides such information and complements the
supplementary evidence submitted by the Royal Society of Chemistry
on 20 March 2002.
2. As the Committee is aware, in April 2000,
the Department for Education and Employment announced a £60
million allocation from the Capital Modernisation Fund to provide
new school science laboratories and refurbish existing ones. This
money, split over the 2000-01 and 2001-02 financial years, was
intended to benefit around 400 secondary schools..
3. Over the past week, the Royal Society
has conducted an informal survey of the science advisers in 10
LEAs (covering around 450 schools) in the north of England. The
survey, albeit crude, sought to establish what sort of difference
the £60 million has made to school science accommodation
and to get a feeling for how much more needs to be done. What
is clear from the survey is that the £60 million has made
a significant difference to those schools who were allocated funding.
The funds are felt to have improved not just the actual facilities,
but also teacher and pupil outlook and motivation. Several respondents
to the survey related stories of teachers and pupils being overjoyed
and genuinely enthused by the modern and bright appearance of
their new labs.
4. In 1999, the DfEE published a useful
guide to building and refurbishing science laboratories. Building
Bulletin 80: "Science Accommodation in Secondary Schools"
includes a detailed discussion of the issues and we commend it
to the Committee. The memorandum submitted by the Royal Society
of Chemistry quotes from this publication and explains the costs
involved in building and fitting out a new science building as
well as the issues involved in refurbishing existing accommodation.
5. In Building Bulletin 80, two detailed
case studies of refurbishing a school's existing science accommodation
are examined. For the first, the average cost per laboratory is
calculated as £34k. For the second the cost is higher, at
£50k per lab, this reflecting the fact that more expensive
worktops are used and more building work is required to adapt
the existing structure and services. This range of £34k to
£50k per lab provides a useful estimate for costs. Allowing
for inflation since 1999,
the range would be £37k to £55k per lab in 2002.
6. These case studies refer to reasonably
extensive re-fits of the laboratories including building works.
Some school labs could be vastly improved by more modest redecoration
and the supply of new furniture. CLEAPSS
estimates that this sort of modernisation costs at least £20k
7. In April 2000, at the time of the £60
million allocation from the Capital Modernisation Fund, the Government
considered approximately 750 schools to have poor science accommodation.
This represents 21 per cent of all schools in England. Since the
Government considered that £60 million could cover the needs
of 400 schools, one may assume that a further 350 schools are
still in need of new or modernised laboratories. This would indicate
a figure for the investment still required of £52.5 million.
In reality, it is likely that more than 400 schools have benefited
from the original £60 million, but this will have been at
the expense of the number of labs each school has been able to
refurbish. Therefore the figure of £52.5 million can still
be regarded as a fair estimate for the investment required. This
does, however, ignore those laboratories which have since deteriorated
to a position where they would now be classified as "poor".
It also makes no allowance for inflation in the cost of equipment
and building services. We therefore suggest that £60 million
be considered as the minimum investment still required to ensure
schools have adequate laboratory accommodation.
8. The real need may be much greater than
this but we do not have access to substantial data which would
allow us to calculate a precise figure. However, from our recent
survey and informal discussions with LEA advisers, OFSTED inspectors,
teachers and technicians, we believe that the original £60
million has met somewhere between one third and one half of the
need. In our survey, for example, the science advisers suggest
that 60 per cent of schools in their areas still have laboratories
requiring refurbishment. Thus we estimate that additional funds
of between £60 million and £120 million are required
to bring all school laboratories in England up to an adequate
9. The discussion above relates to costs
involved in refurbishing laboratories. It does not include the
cost of stocking a school laboratory with the equipment required
to teach science. A modern school requires a huge range of equipment
to allow pupils to undertake the full range of practical work.
In 1997, the Royal Society produced a list of over 1,000 pieces
of equipment required to teach science 11-16.
By allocating a cost and an expected "life-span" to
each piece of equipment it was calculated that, even for the essential
items, a figure of £11.38 per pupil per year was required
to teach the Secondary National Curriculum. A subsequent survey
of schools estimated that an average of £9.40 was actually
being spent on such equipment in LEA schools. If this shortfall
of around £2 per pupil per year is still apparentand
we strongly suspect that it is then an additional £6
million per year or so needs to be found if we are to ensure that
school laboratories are not only refurbished but also adequately
stocked with the equipment required to teach National Curriculum
4 As quoted in DFEE press release of 18 April 2000. Back
Based on an estimate of 3 per cent per year. Back
Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of
School Science Services. Back
Calculated as (350/400) x £60 million. Back
The Royal Society (1997), "Science teaching resources: 11-16
year olds". London: The Royal Society. Back