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Education Matters: Rowdy pupils force teachers to take fun out of science.

Badly behaved pupils are forcing many schools to abandon practical science lessons because of the risk of accidents, a survey has shown.

A leading chemist said the problem was so serious it was damaging children's science education.

Avoiding practicals was also undermining efforts to get more youngsters interested in science, said Dr Simon Campbell, president-elect of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

The survey conducted by Save British Science showed that practical science lessons had been cancelled at more than three quarters of 67 secondary schools across England.

In 57 per cent of cases, the reason given for abandoning classes involving the use of Bunsen burners and dangerous chemicals was rowdy behaviour by pupils.

Poor discipline in class was seen as a bigger problem than lack of equipment, large class sizes, and shortage of laboratory space.

A separate survey by the Royal Society of Chemistry has found that 65 per cent of school labs in Britain are less than 'good or excellent'.

Dr Campbell said: 'Fewer kids are having practical classes, largely because of poor discipline. Teachers are worried about pupils misbehaving.

'If there is a lack of discipline in the lab, it makes teachers feel very vulnerable. They're going to get the blame if something happens, and they're afraid of litigation. You don't have the same safety issues with a classroom-based subject, like French for example.'

Save British Science, which campaigns for more support for science, questioned Heads of Science at a range of schools earlier this year.

The schools included those from inner cities, rural areas, and regions as far apart as Middlesbrough and Torbay.

Dr Peter Cotgreave, director of SBS, said: 'We were astonished that the main reason for cancelling practical classes was behavioural problems.

'To be honest we expected complaints about equipment and lack of staff. But the single biggest thing we encountered was that naughty kids couldn't be trusted with gas taps and acid. 'Often it was an unruly minority who were to blame, which is unfair on the others.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 12, 2004
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