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New National Centre for Science Learning

Posted on 16 October 2003

Science teachers are set to benefit from the Government’s new £9 million flagship National Centre for Science Learning, which will be based at the University of York.

The University is to host the national centre in a pioneering move which is designed to improve the way science is taught in schools, bringing back excitement and enthusiasm for the subject which is increasingly seen as vital to the regeneration of the UK’s economy.

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury, who last year opened the University’s £25million biosciences research building for the Departments of Biology and Chemistry, said: “Science education is vital for a thriving economy.”

The University of York is internationally renowned for developing new and exciting approaches to teaching science which are used all over the world, and the decision to site the National Centre at the York campus will build on that expertise.

York’s bid to run the National Centre was made in conjunction with the White Rose Consortium of Leeds, Sheffield and York universities, together with Sheffield Hallam University, which will host one of six regional centres.

The Centre will be at the heart of a network of regional centres which will transform the quality of training and support for teachers and technicians in primary and secondary schools, and will boost their knowledge of cutting-edge science and technology such as the impact of genetics on reproductive methods, the controversies behind GM foods, or the quest to find extra-terrestrial life in the universes. Studying the social and ethical implications of these disciplines will also be an important part of the initiative.

The Centre’s futuristic HQ at York will bring together researchers and course leaders to provide training for teachers who will be able to benefit from Continuing Professional Development (CPD) on residential and day courses. Teachers will be able to try out prototype science equipment in a specialist workshop.

Other facilities will include a definitive resource centre, a multi-purpose laboratory, computer and video suites, and teaching rooms, all of which will be used by science staff on specially-designed courses to help them re-invigorate their pupils’ interest in science and careers in science.

The total budget for the initiative is £50 million, funded jointly by the Department for Education and Skills, and the research charity the Wellcome Trust.

Professor John Holman, Salters Professor of Chemical Education at the University of York, led the White Rose bid for the national initiative. He said: “The quality of science education depends crucially on the supply and professional expertise of science teachers - they hold the key to motivating students towards high achievement.

“Our consortium has unrivalled strengths in science education and scientific research. Between us we have the expertise to reconnect science teachers to the frontiers of their subject, and to help them to acquire new skills and ideas for inspired teaching. British science education is already excellent by international standards, but our ultimate goal is to make it the best in the world by 2015.”

The National Centre will receive a further £13 million towards running costs over the first ten years. This figure has been boosted by an additional contribution of £1 million from regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward.

The regional centres will open in October 2004, and the national centre in 2005, with three further regional centres commissioned by the end of the year.

Notes to editors:

  • The University of York Science Education Group (UYSEG) has played a leading role in the successful bid. With a joint base in the Departments of Chemistry and Educational Studies, UYSEG has an international reputation for science education research and curriculum development. The group developed the internationally renowned Salters science courses and is currently developing 21st-Century Science, a government-backed initiative at GCSE, with £1.2 million of funding from Nuffield, Wellcome and the Salters Institute. UYSEG is led by Professor John Holman of the Department of Chemistry and Professor Robin Millar of the Department of Educational Studies.
  • Further details are at
  • Professor Holman will be Director of the project during its initial stages. Professor Millar will co-chair the academic planning group and Ms Miranda Stephenson (Chemistry) will co-ordinate business development.
  • This initiative will build on groundwork carried out by the York Science Enhancement Programme, an inovative programme of residentail profesional development for science teachers that draws on expertise from the Departments of Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Educational Studies.
  • The White Rose University Consortium universities (including Sheffield Hallam for this project) have over 1000 researchers working in 5 or 5* rated departments of pure and applied science, with an overall annual research spend in excess of £200 million. The Consortium includes half of the Professors of Science Education in the UK.
  • The five other regional Science Learning Centres are: London: run by the Institute of Education, University of London South East: run by the University of Southampton Eastern: run by the University of Hertford East Midlands: run by the University of Leicester North West: run by Manchester Metropolitan University
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David Garner
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