University science 'key' to schools

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The Independent Online

Many children do not have access to adequate science facilities, Lord Winston has said as he warned universities had a "key responsibility" to work with schools.

The leading scientist called on private schools to join up with universities to "change the educational experience" for children.

Speaking at the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) annual meeting in St Andrews, Lord Winston said higher education had a "real role" to play in the schools system.

"To my mind, I think there is a real need to do much more in universities," he said.

"I think we have a real role to play in connecting with schools. I think we could really change the vista if we do that."

He showed a photograph of teenagers from local London schools taking part in a practical class at his university, Imperial College.

"You will notice they are mostly from ethnic minorities and are mostly doing science in this practical class about two years ahead of what they could do in their local school, but of course their local school doesn't have a laboratory that they can use," he said.

This was the same in "something like 35%" of state schools, he suggested.

A Commons education select committee report published in January found evidence that science laboratories in many state schools were not up to scratch, with facilities in up to a quarter of schools unsafe.

Lord Winston told the HMC: "The private sector has a real role to play. Because if we could collaborate together to set up hubs with local universities we could really change I think the educational process for these kids and offer them such a fantastic experience.

"It is really in everyone's interests to do this."

He added: "Universities have a key responsibility to connect more with schools."