30. We regret the move towards generalist science
courses, which we fear will dilute the knowledge base and result
in inadequate preparation for higher education in the sciences.
All 5-16 year olds study an equal balance of biology,
chemistry and physics, with the majority (77% in 2000) taking
the double award science at GCSE. A revised curriculum was introduced
in September 2000. The changes in science were designed to clarify
and strengthen experimental and investigative science, to place
greater emphasis on contemporary science and on applications of
The double award GCSE, which is generally delivered
using 20% of curriculum time, enables pupils to gain a balanced
scientific education whilst also allowing the time to study a
broader curriculum. The GSCE double award in science provides
a secure grounding for pupils to progress to AS and A level. The
Government assumes that the Committee would prefer pupils
to study separate sciences at GCSE level. With current
GCSE specifications, this could theoretically be achieved in two
- All pupils could study three separate sciences
to GCSE, which would take approximately 30% of curriculum time.
While this would enable pupils to study science in more depth,
it would narrow the curriculum by limiting the range of non-science
subjects that pupils could study.
- Pupils could choose to specialise in one or two
areas of science, as occurred prior to the introduction of the
National Curriculum. The Government believes that it is important
for all pupils to receive a balanced science education to age
16. This provides both a general understanding on which 'non-scientists'
can draw in later life and a secure grounding for those who wish
to continue with further study. The Government has also been pleased
to see a gradual reduction in the gender divide post-16. Passes
awarded for A level chemistry are now evenly split between males
and females. A concern would be that allowing pupils to opt out
of certain areas of science at age 14 would resurrect the gender
The Government does not consider that either of these
options would be a positive move forwards. However, the Qualifications
and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has been asked to consider whether
the current science curriculum best meets the needs of pupils
in the 21st century. It will report to DfES in 2002.
31. The quality of science teaching in schools
has become a major concern. (Paragraph 58)
34. It is essential that the Government develop
a clear strategy for improving the quality of science teaching
in all schools¼
The Government notes the Committee's concerns about
the quality of science teaching in schools.
Performance in primary science is outstanding. Since
1997 the number of pupils achieving national expectations at age
11 has increased from 69% to 85%. Ofsted has highlighted that
the national literacy and numeracy strategies have led to clear
benefits in other subjects, including science, and reports that
science teaching at ages 11-16 is at least satisfactory in 9 out
of 10 lessons and good or very good in 6 out of 10.
To build on this, and to ensure that science teachers
have access to the support they need and to high quality professional
development, the Government will establish a Centre of Excellence
for Science Teaching. The Centre will provide leading edge professional
development for science teachers to enable them to develop their
professional skills and their knowledge of up-to-date scientific
advances. It will also act as the hub of a network linking together
schools and higher education providers of science teacher training.
In addition, the Government is piloting a Key Stage 3 strategy.
The science strand of this strategy will roll out nationally in
2002/03 and will provide focused professional development for
all Key Stage 3 science teachers in both pedagogical and subject
knowledge. They will receive comprehensive and high quality training
that will help to ensure that pupils' progress and learning in
Key Stage 3 science is enhanced.
'Learning and Teaching', a strategy for professional
development, was launched on 1 March 2001 (see http://www.dfes.gov.uk/teachers/cpd/docs/CPD_Strategy.pdf).
The strategy is designed to give all teachers greatly increased
opportunities for relevant, focused, effective professional development,
and to place such development at the heart of school improvement.
A science teacher who identifies a need to develop their subject
or pedagogical knowledge will select the most appropriate professional
development activity to enable them to do this. This could take
place in school or be facilitated by the range of providers that
deliver science specific continuing professional development to
teachers. Science Year was launched on 7 September 2001 with the
aim of increasing engagement with science and science-based learning.
It is targeted primarily at 10-19 year olds and those who influence
them, including teachers. The Year is being delivered by NESTA
on behalf of the DfES and they are working closely with the Association
for Science Education to develop materials and resources for schools.
The Government hopes that the Year will have a sustainable impact.
providing for both teachers and students to gain experience of
science and technology in "the real world". (Paragraph
The Government wants all children to have access
to a range of high quality, focused, structured experiences of
the world of work throughout their school career. This includes
activities that support the teaching and learning of science and
technology. The Government also recognises the importance of providing
teachers with access to similar experiences.
As from April 2001, the Learning and Skills Council
(LSC) has been responsible for ensuring the provision of education
business link activity in each of the 47 local LSC areas. To help
the LSC meet its responsibility, consortia of education business
link organisations have been formed in each LSC area. By providing
a single face to both schools and businesses, Education Business
Link Consortia should make it easier for both parties to engage
in this activity. The consortia will deliver a full range of high
quality activities to all children and their teachers, including
the wide range of science and technology related education business
link programmes and initiatives that already exist.
Professional Development Placements offer opportunities
for teachers, as part of their continuing professional development,
to update their subject knowledge and increase their understanding
of employers' needs. Science teachers are included in the priority
group which LSCs and Education Business Link Consortia have been
asked to target.
The total core funding allocated to the LSC for education
business links in 2001/02 is £23 million. This will be followed
by £25 million in 2002/03 and 2003/04. In addition, the LSC
will be able to use its Local Initiatives Fund to supplement core
funding. DTI are investing £6 million over the next 3 years
to provide every child under 16 in the UK with the opportunity
to participate in an appropriate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering
and Maths) activity, at least once in each Key Stage, or the equivalent,
over the next three years.
32. We note that the House of Lords Committee
highlights the decline in the amount of practical work in its
recent Report on Science in Schools, and recommends that continuing
professional development for teachers should be specifically targeted
at the problem of declining practical work. We wholeheartedly
endorse these views. (Paragraph 58)
Despite the Committee's observations, there is no
evidence that practical work in schools is declining. The Third
International Mathematics and Science Study Re-run, published
in December 2000, shows that pupils in England do more practical
work than their counterparts in many other countries. The importance
of scientific enquiry has been further strengthened by recent
changes to the National Curriculum. Well-taught practical work,
including demonstration, group work and individual investigation,
is an essential and valuable part of every child's science education.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is keen that
practical work should not be hindered by over-stringent application
of health and safety regulations which is not justified by the
legislation. The new health and safety statement in Curriculum
2000 clearly identifies the need for students to be taught the
skills of risk assessment, and joint guidance for teachers was
prepared by the HSE and QCA. HSE is now working at other methods
of informing teachers about the statement and what it means, such
as producing support materials and influencing the materials produced
by a wide variety of educational stakeholders.
If individual teachers or schools identify a need
for further development in delivering safe and effective practical
work, there are a range of providers who offer this, as well as
the expertise within their own and neighbouring schools on which
they can draw.
33. How to attract high quality science and technology
graduates into teaching is a real problem, to which there is no
ready answer. Nevertheless, it is a matter which has to be addressed
as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 59)
The Government is working hard to increase recruitment
for science and technology and teacher training and the Committee
has noted the £10,000 training package. Most science teachers
qualify by taking a postgraduate course of initial teacher training.
Between 1999 and 2001 there was a 5% rise in the number of graduates
training to be science teachers. In a buoyant graduate labour
market, this is good progress after several successive years of
decline. By the end of March 2001, there had been a 26% increase
in applications for science PGCE training places, including 20%
for physics and 20% for chemistry, compared to the same time last
year. The Green Paper, Schools: Building on Success, also
contains a proposal for the Government to pay off, over time,
the student loans of newly-qualified teachers of shortage subjects,
including science, who commit themselves to teaching careers in
the maintained sector.
In addition, the Government is strengthening employment-based
training options. Schools employing trainees on the Graduate Teacher
Programme now receive grants of up to £13,000 in a full year
in respect of each trainee, effectively making the trainees supernumerary.
This programme allows graduates to qualify as teachers while working
in the classroom. It has proved especially helpful to schools
with hard-to-fill vacancies and for mature trainees who are career-changers.
Following the March 2001 budget, the Secretary of State announced
that 2,250 fully-funded places a year would be available on the
programme. Applicants in the shortage subjects, including science,
receive priority for funding.
The Government is also encouraging trained teachers
to return to the profession. In particular, it is currently consulting
the School Teachers' Review Body on proposals for a Welcome Back
bonus for people who return to teaching in the maintained sector
between 17 April and 31 December 2001. Under the proposals a higher
rate of bonus (£4,000) would be paid to teachers in shortage
subjects, including science.
The teachers' pay award for 1 April 2001 included,
within its 4.2% overall cost, a 6% increase in starting pay and
30% increases in London allowances. In addition, schools now have
5 recruitment and retention allowances, worth up to £5,000
per annum, available for use at their discretion. These may be
paid in the normal way or as "golden handcuffs" at the
end of a period of unbroken employment, and they may be used to
attract and retain science teachers.
'Learning and Teaching', a strategy for professional
development, was launched on 1 March 2001. Evidence already shows
that schools with strong cultures of continuing professional development
find it easier to recruit and retain staff
The Committee suggested that industry should be encouraged
to contribute to the delivery of science and technology in schools.
As part of Science Year, the Government will be launching a Science
and Engineering Ambassadors Scheme that will encourage scientists
and engineers from industry to form links with schools where they
will work with both pupils and teachers.
34. It is essential that the Government develop
a clear strategy for improving the quality of science teaching
in all schools providing for both teachers
and students to gain experience of science and technology in "the
real world". (Paragraph 60)
35. The inconsistency in the PhD stipend paid
by different Research Councils and by independent agencies is
unfair and is likely to be distorting, given the current levels
of post-doctoral research salaries. (Paragraph 65)
36. We welcome the very significant increase in
the minimum PhD student stipend, but we believe that it is still
not enough to ensure that the best graduates stay on to do doctoral
research. The Government should work towards a further significant
increase in the PhD student stipend. (Paragraph 66)
37. While the increase to the PhD stipend is welcome,
a more serious problem lies with the pay and conditions for post-doctoral
scientists. (Paragraph 67)
38. The Government can no longer afford to ignore
the problem of low pay and poor job security for post-doctoral
researchers and support staff. A shortage of skilled personnel
threatens to undermine its commitment to strengthening the science
base. (Paragraph 67)
39. What is important is to build on the strengths
of the individual and to accord equal value, and rewards, to both
teaching and research. (Paragraph 68)
40. We must do more to support excellent scientists
and engineers. (Paragraph 69)
Surveys have not so far suggested across-the-board
problems in recruiting high-quality students to PhDs, but take-up
is difficult in some subject areas. The Government is not able
to prescribe the level at which other agencies support PhDs, and,
in view of the pattern of take-up, is not currently minded to
do so, other than setting a minimum, for the Research Councils.
The Government agrees that improvement to postdoctoral
research careers is highly desirable. Primary responsibility must,
however, lie with academia itself and university employers. Reinforcing
other measures already taken to encourage improvement, the Government
is now considering the large number of responses received, including
many from the higher education sector, to its recent consultation
on proposals to implement the European Community directive on
fixed-term work. This aims to prevent fixed-term employees generally
from being less favourably treated than similar permanent employees,
limit the scope for using a series of fixed-term contracts to
employ the same person in a "permanent" position, and
improve access to training and information on permanent jobs for
fixed-term employees. In addition, as a result of the last Spending
Review, the Government has made substantial additional resources
available to the higher education sector to support increases
in academic and non-academic pay, to help institutions recruit
and retain the key staff they need, and to help modernise management
and reward systems.
As the Committee notes, the Government has asked
Sir Gareth Roberts to undertake a review of the supply of skilled
scientists and engineers in the UK, focusing on the sort of high-level
scientific and technical skills that are possessed by postgraduates
and, to a lesser extent, by well-qualified graduates. The aim
of the review is to ensure that businesses can recruit and retain
the scientists and engineers necessary to lead and underpin their
research and development activities. The Quinquennial Review of
the Research Councils is considering the Councils' role in postgraduate
training and research support generally, and the Research Careers
Initiative Strategy Group, also chaired by Sir Gareth Roberts,
will be delivering a further report later this year on progress
in improving research careers in higher education.
The Government will take the Committee's recommendations
into account alongside those emerging from these further studies.
41. The Government must ensure that schemes to
encourage experienced entrepreneurs from abroad to come to the
UK are not undermined by tax disincentives. (Paragraph 70)
In Budget 2000, the Government introduced tax-favoured
Enterprise Management Initiatives (EMIs) to help small, higher
risk companies to recruit and retain the people they need to achieve
their potential for growth, through the award of share options.
Further improvements were made in Budget 2001, removing the limit
on the number of employees who can benefit from the initiative
and doubling the maximum value of options to £3 million per
42. We welcome the Government's commitment to
improving opportunities for women in science, engineering and
technology. (Paragraph 74)
43. It is clear that there are still barriers
to women realising their potential in science, engineering and
technology. (Paragraph 74)
The Promoting SET for Women Unit in the Office of
Science and Technology continues to support projects such as ATHENA,
which seeks to tackle inequality of opportunity and treatment
for women in the higher education sector. It also brings the expertise
of the social science community to bear to help address the barriers
to women's progression, in particular in higher education.
One of the key barriers for women is the low rate
of adoption of good work-life balance practices in the SET sector.
Tackling this will represent a significant challenge over the
coming years, as will ensuring that the issue of increasing the
role of women in SET becomes part of the mainstream of policy-making.
In schools, there has been some progress in encouraging
more girls to study chemistry in recent years, to the extent that
it is expected that this year nearly half of all A-level chemistry
candidates will be girls. This increase at A-level is feeding
through to undergraduate degree courses. It is now important that
successes in chemistry be repeated in other subjects where progress
has been slow or absent, such as physics and design and technology.
The Stevens Report on the Information Technology,
Electronics and Communications industries focused on the likely
development of a skills shortage in the sector. It has recommended
a number of measures to increase the participation by girls including
the establishment of girl-only computer clubs and research on
the image and perception of information technology among young
44. We stand by our view that the Office of Science
and Technology should remain with the Department of Trade and
Industry, and that the Minister for Science should be raised to
Cabinet rank. (Paragraph 75)
The Government agrees with the Committee that there
are advantages to locating the OST within the DTI, in particular
that it allows science and technology policies to be developed
more closely alongside policies on innovation. Excellence and
Opportunity - a science and innovation policy for the 21st
century is an example of this approach. In addition, the recent
White Paper on enterprise, skills and innovation, Opportunity
for all in a world of change, contained a significant SET
component. The OST has retained strong links with DfES and, as
the Committee acknowledges, the links between science policy,
higher education policy and management of the universities have
The Minister for Science has day to day responsibility
for science policy. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
argues the case for science in the Cabinet. The Government believes
that this present arrangement works well.
45. We hope that the departmental science strategies,
which are expected to be published in the Summer of 2001, will
demonstrate that departments are committing additional funding
to research and development. The publication of Forward Look 2001
also provides an opportunity for Government to show the impact
of the 2000 Spending Review on overall government expenditure
on R&D. (Paragraph 76)
The departmental science and innovation strategies
will set out the broad framework within which research programmes
and other science related activities are carried out. Rather than
specifying funding arrangements, the strategies will demonstrate
departments' commitment to optimising the use of science and technology
to meet their policy objectives, not only in the short and medium
term but in the longer term as well. Funding decisions will flow
from departments demonstrating the value added by science related
activities to achieving goals and meeting objectives. Some departments
have already published their strategies; there may be some delay
for areas such as agriculture and environment which have undergone
significant changes following the General Election.
The publication of Forward Look 2001 will set out
departmental spending plans and the Government's planned investment
in the science base arising from the Spending Review 2000. Last
year's cross-cutting appraisal of scientific research and the
subsequent Spending Review should help to provide some stability
over the next 3 years, with some departments anticipating a real
terms rise in expenditure on research and development. The publication
of Forward Look 2001 is also delayed until new responsibilities
and spending plans can be reflected.
46. If public confidence in science is to be restored,
it is essential that Government Departments have sufficient well-qualified
scientific staff in-house to advise on scientific matters and
to ensure that Government is able to make full use of science
and technology; and there must be mechanisms to ensure that their
advice is taken into account by policymakers. (Paragraph 77)
The Government agrees that it has a responsibility
to maintain sufficient in-house expertise and scientific literacy
to provide sound advice and to be able to respond to advice from
sources outside Government. The Nicholson report of science and
technology activities across Government recommended that Ministers
needed to ensure that their departments had high quality people
with scientific and technical backgrounds to understand science
issues, to evaluate advice, and to interpret scientific issues
simply and clearly. This recommendation was accepted in the Government's
response, which included a commitment for departments to review
present and future requirements and supply arrangements. This
process is underway.
The need for departments to retain sufficient expertise
in-house was also highlighted in the Phillips report of the BSE
inquiry. The inquiry
found that Government should:
retain "in house" sufficient expertise to ensure that
departments are able to identify where there is a need for advice,
frame appropriate questions, understand and critically review
the advice given, and act upon it in a sensible and proportionate
The Government's commitment to carry out a review
was again set out in its interim response with an additional pledge
to seek wider consultation.
47. Devolution must not be allowed to weaken the
UK science base. The Government must ensure that the devolved
administrations are fully involved in the development of science
policy in order to avoid inconsistency of purpose in the different
parts of the UK. (Paragraph 78)
The Government agrees that it is important to maintain
a fully integrated, UK-wide science base. A key objective of science
policy is to maintain and develop the UK's world-class science
and engineering base, funded through the Dual Support system.
This includes the Funding Councils of the devolved administrations,
and their Education Departments, whose representatives meet with
those of the Research Councils under the auspices of the Science
& Engineering Base Co-ordinating Committee chaired by the
Government's Chief Scientific Adviser.
The Research Councils also include members from both
the devolved administrations and universities in their countries
who are involved in their policy development and priority setting.
For example, the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland is a member
of the Medical Research Council.
48. We recommend that the Office of Science and
Technology update its report measuring the quality of the UK Science
Base on a regular basis. (Paragraph 79)
OST's measurements of the quality of the UK Science
Base derive principally from bibliometric data published annually
by the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) in Philadelphia.
The latest measures were reported in DTI's Expenditure Plans Report.
It is planned to publish updates of these measures as soon as
the necessary analysis of each new set of ISI data has been carried
out. This is expected to be in July of each year.
49. Sustained and substantial funding of the science
base will be required to ensure that the UK can continue to 'punch
above its weight'. (Paragraph 79)
The Government has already made clear its commitment
to properly funding the science and engineering base by injecting
large increases into the Science Budget in 1998 and again in 2000
following two spending reviews. In 1998, science received a larger
percentage increase in funding than any single government department.
In the years 2001-02 to 2003-04 the Science Budget will grow by
an average of 7% per year in real terms. These increases have
been channelled into all the key areas of science funding: increasing
the volume of basic research, restoring the underlying physical
infrastructure base, increasing PhD stipend levels substantially,
and increasing funding of knowledge transfer and exploitation
activities. The Government remains committed to the proper funding
of a vital and healthy science base in the long term.
50. We are yet to see hard evidence that the policies
introduced by Realising Our Potential have had
a significant impact on investment in science and innovation.
While it is accepted that UK R&D expenditure
declined from 1993 to 1998, the trends have now been reversed.
In 1999 overall UK R&D expenditure increased by 4% in real
terms and business R&D
expenditure increased by 7% in real terms.
In addition, the 1997 Comprehensive Spending Review and Spending
Review 2000 are having a positive impact on areas of Government
R&D expenditure from 1999/2000 onwards, whilst the White Paper
Excellence and Opportunity has introduced measures which
will expand the opportunities for innovation. These changes reflect
the importance which Government attaches to investment in science
6 "The BSE Inquiry" - Report by Lord
Phillips of Worth Matravers, Mrs June Bridgeman CB and Professor
Malcolm Ferguson-Smith FRS, October 2000 and the Government's
Interim Response, February 2001. Back
Trade and Industry: The Government's Expenditure Plans 2001-02
to 2003-04 and Main Estimates 2001-02, (Cm 5112) pages 23
and 82. Back
Gross expenditure on R&D increased in real terms from £14.27
billion (1.81% of GDP) in 1998 to £14.91 billion (1.84% of
GDP) in 1999. Back
Business Enterprise R&D increased in real terms from £9.4
billion (1.19% of GDP) in 1998 to £10.11 billion (1.25% of
GDP) in 1999. Back