Pupils at many academy and local authority schools in England are missing out on practical science experiments because of a lack of basic equipment, according to a report on the BBC website.
A survey of 845 schools by the group Science Community Representing Education highlights “acute” shortages with on average, secondary schools have 70% of the necessary equipment and primaries just 46%.
Prof Julia Buckingham, of Science Community Representing Education (Score), said: “Practical science is a low priority when it comes to allocating budgets.”
The survey found that levels of resourcing were poorest for biology, with 37% of secondary schools reporting too little equipment for effective practical work. Almost half said they lacked sufficient ecological sampling equipment such as beakers and nets and more than 60% said they didn’t have enough items such as thermometers or blood pressure meters to measure changes in the body.
In chemistry, the BBC reported, some 60% of secondary schools reported too few pH monitors for the study of acids and alkalis.
In physics, 40% of schools and sixth-form colleges lacked enough magnets even for pupils to work in pairs.
Schools also reported shortages of microscopes, eye protection and connecting leads for circuits.
Some 70% of secondary and 37% of primary teachers said they regularly paid for practical science equipment out of their own pockets – “with very few expecting to be reimbursed”, says the report.
It raises concerns “that over 80% of state-funded schools do not formally allocate part of the science budget specifically for practical work”. In state secondary schools, funding varied from 75p per student to £31.25. The highest-spending independent school put £83.21 per student into practical science. The lowest-spending state primary allocated just 4p.
The report also found that an average of 28% of the practical science budget was spent on photocopying.