In its recent submission to the Government's 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, the RSC has again made the case for increased investment in chemistry education

Piggy bank filled with money

In its recent submission to the Government's 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has again made the case for increased investment in chemistry education in schools, colleges and HE by calling for cash to the tune of £3.4 billion for the subject over three years from 2008. 

The RSC acknowledges the Government's commitment to improve school facilities through its Building Schools for the Future programme, which was launched two years ago. However, the Society remains concerned that funds are not ring-fenced for laboratory modernisation and states that it will be commissioning research to review the programme's impact on the state of school labs. The RSC recommends £1.9b should be used to provide modern laboratory facilities in all UK schools and colleges, with a further £70m per annum to pay for equipment and resources.  

Investment in teachers is also high on the RSC's wish-list. Between 2008-11, the Society wants additional funding of £210m to be provided so that all students aged 14-16 are taught science by subject specialist teachers. The proportion of graduate teacher trainees who have at least a II(i) degree classification, the RSC states, should be significantly increased too. However, as Dr Keith Taber of the University of Cambridge's faculty of education warns, 'Many universities are now offering their PGCEs as M-level qualifications, including Cambridge where the normal entrance qualification is at least an upper second. This is not entirely good news because universities may find themselves rejecting a fair proportion of candidates they might have previously admitted, because they are now considered unsuitable for this route into teaching. This will reduce the number of new entrants into science teaching 
unless they find alternative training routes'.  

The RSC also believes further incentives are needed to make teaching science in schools and colleges a more appealing profession if the Government is to achieve its aims of increasing the number of science teachers by 3000 and offering students who achieve level 6 at Key Stage 3 the opportunity study the separate sciences at GCSE. 

The future of the chemical sciences in HEIs remains a concern for the RSC. In-line with its previous submission to the 2004 Comprehensive Spending Review, the RSC calls on Government to invest in the short term - £338m in the physical sciences and engineering in universities in 2008 with a further £306m per annum for 2009 and 2010. This cash, the RSC says, is 'to provide the necessary financial breathing space for vice chancellors to draw up long-term plans for the sustainable provision of strategically important laboratory-based subjects'.  

According to the RSC, longer-term stability for science and engineering in HE will only come about if funding for these subjects matches the full economic cost of providing such undergraduate courses, as calculated using TRAC methodology. 

The 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review will set spending limits for Government Departments for three years from 2008. Details of the spending review are expected to be announced next summer.