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Innovative science learning centre formally opened by Lord Sainsbury

Published: 8 December 2004

Minister for Science and Innovation Lord Sainsbury will be at the University of Southampton on Monday 13 December to open a pioneering new science centre which aims to help teachers in England lead the world in science education by 2015.

The Science Learning Centre South East is part of a £51 million national network which seek to bring about innovation and inspiration in science teaching in schools and colleges. Nine regional centres across the country, together with the national centre in York, will provide professional training and development for teachers of science from primary to post-16 education.

Lord Sainsbury will join Vice-Chancellor Professor Bill Wakeham at the Southampton launch event, where their speeches will be broadcast live via video conferencing links to some of the Centre's eight satellite bases across the region. They will then unveil a commemorative plaque before touring the Centre.

The University, led by staff in the School of Education, successfully bid to the Department for Education and the Wellcome Trust for the Centre to be based on campus. The Centre works with eight schools across the region which act as satellite centres with video-conferencing facilities allowing teachers to meet locally and share regionally. They also host local events and courses.

The Centre's regional partners in the initiative include Pfizer UK Ltd, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Royal Society of Chemistry, and local education authorities. Marwell Zoo and INTECH, both near Winchester, are also involved.

The cutting-edge scientific knowledge and experience gained from these close partnerships with research scientists, scientific organisations and professional bodies is matched with educational expertise from local education authorities, skilled science educators and teachers. Local businesses are actively encouraged to provide expertise to illustrate the diverse ways that science knowledge can be applied outside the classroom and highlight the opportunities available in science-based careers.

The heart of the Centre is a state-of-the-art video-conferencing suite which makes real-time experiments, cross-collaboration and distance learning with satellite centres and partners possible. The latest high-speed wireless network linked to laptop computers also means advanced scientific experiments can be undertaken, such as connecting sensors to digital microscopes. In addition, teachers can use the extensive information technology resources, including a library of science CD-ROMs, scanners and still and video cameras. All teachers who attend courses have access to an online learning environment with up-to-date resources.

Lord Sainsbury said: "It is vital that we capture the imagination and inspire our future generations of young scientists. This new Centre will provide an excellent way to develop the teaching of science in schools and help to reach out to students. I am delighted to open the latest stage in our national network."

Vice-Chancellor Professor Bill Wakeham commented: "The Centre brings together research, industry and educational expertise, acting as a catalyst for creating intellectually stimulating and relevant science education. As such, it is able to draw on the University's strengths in both cutting-edge science research and educational excellence. For me, this collaborative vision is one of the most exciting aspects of the initiative. Working with the University and other partners across the region, this Centre will help to enthuse pupils in the classroom and develop a deeper understanding of the impact of contemporary science. This can only be a positive thing for the future of science and the economy."

Professor Mary Ratcliffe, Director of the Centre, said: "As industry demands more skilled employees with qualifications in science subjects, and as society is more and more affected by scientific advances, schools need to be able to help their students get an understanding of science.

"The ultimate aim of the Centre is to benefit students by helping them to understand exciting advancements in contemporary science and the ability to consider their impact on society. By reconnecting teachers of science with the rapidly-changing boundaries of their subject and the latest techniques for teaching, the Centre will help them offer students an exciting programme of science education."

Notes for editors

  1. You are invited to send a representative along to the launch of the Centre at 10.30am on Monday 13 December when there will be an opportunity to take photographs.  Please contact Susan Bradley on 023 8059 8810 if you would like to attend.
  2. The Science Learning Centre South East covers Kent, West and East Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire.  For more information visit www.sciencelearningcentres.org.uk
  3. The eight schools which are satellite centres are: Sandown High School (Isle of Wight); Dartford Grammar School for Girls (Dartford); Thomas Hardye School (Dorset); Hazelwick School (Crawley); Royal Latin School (Buckinghamshire); Queen Mary's College (Basingstoke); King Richard School (Portsmouth), and Matthew Arnold School (Oxford).
  4. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship.  The University has around 20,000 students and nearly 5000 staff.  Its annual turnover is in the region of £270 million.

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