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Science Laboratories

Volume 447: debated on Wednesday 14 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the recall of funding promised for science laboratories. (62969)

Capital investment underpins the Government's drive to raise standards of education and we are fully committed to taking forward our programme to renew and improve all schools. Funding for investment in schools is £6.8 billion this year and it will rise to over £8 billion by 2010-11. This compares to under £700 million in 1996-97.

Our aims include rebuilding or renewing all secondary schools through the Building Schools for the Future programme, including their science laboratories, in fifteen waves of investment which started last year. Already about 350 schools have been prioritised in the first three waves, and we aim to include up to a further 600 schools in the next three waves. We also aim to have 200 Academies open or in the pipeline by 2010. In all, by 2010 almost a third of all secondary schools will be funded to improve their science teaching facilities.

Building Schools for the Future is only one of our capital programmes, and is allocated just over a third of the total capital funding for schools. All schools and authorities get additional funding for their priorities. This includes the funding which schools get directly—a typical secondary school will get over £100,000 of its own money this year, which can be rolled over to allow larger projects such as science facilities to be addressed.

We are providing the resources to improve school laboratories where this is the priority. What is now important is to ensure that the new laboratories are designed not just to teach the curriculum, but that they have 21st century facilities and are inspiring places to teach and to learn. Our aim is to enthuse pupils with an interest in science, both as a subject and a possible career. Therefore we are planning shortly to launch a “School Science Labs of the Future” project which will bring together teams of leading designers and bodies with specialist interest in, and practical knowledge of, the teaching and learning of science to develop a range of exemplar designs. The most exciting of these will be built in schools around the country so that there is a range of practical examples to act as benchmarks and to disseminate the learning.

Although this is over a longer timescale, we believe that this is the best way of ensuring comprehensively that all young people have the opportunity to learn in high quality facilities which inspire them to pursue their dreams and achieve their potential, and not be turned off by science.