Mike Haslin, Chief Executive Officer at TUCO, The University Caterers Organisation, discusses how to achieve value for money in these unpredictable times
Lack of funding for science equipment undermining teaching
School funding cuts are undermining the quality of science teaching and discouraging students from pursuing STEM-related careers, according to a survey of around 550 science technicians.
Conducted by Preproom.org, an online community for secondary school technicians and commissioned by Dremel and Autodesk, the research finds that despite government pledges to boost science teaching, budget cuts are preventing the purchase of basic equipment and holding pupils back from developing vital skills.
Eighty-eight per cent of survey respondents agreed that a reduction in practical work is harming pupils’ interest in science and technology careers. Sixty-four per cent of schools have suffered from a reduction in budget for practical equipment over the last five years, and 77 per cent of science technicians believe a lack of funding for equipment is undermining teaching.
Responsible for managing the constant supply of equipment that helps develop vital practical skills and embraces curriculum changes, technicians are keenly aware of the challenges facing science departments.
Due to funding pressures, technicians estimate that thousands of pounds worth of out-of-date kit is still in use. According to the survey, equipment from the 1960s and 70s is commonly found in school cupboards.
Dremel’s survey found that 3D printers are far from integrated into the STEM curriculum. Despite Michael Gove pledging to boost the teaching of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) through the introduction of 3D printers, less than a third (29%) of technicians confirmed that additive manufacturing was taught within their school.
The survey also revealed that 3D printers are still mainly restricted to Design Technology. One of the biggest challenges that emerged was that many schools (45%) still do not regard 3D printers as a priority and as a result many teachers lack necessary training in the area.
Technicians familiar with the technology were more positive about its benefits and were three times as likely to recommend investing in a printer.
Already an established industrial technology for prototyping, the benefits of 3D printers have proven to help pupils create multi-disciplinary links and prepare pupils for jobs in engineering and industry.