Ruth Mitchell

Education system failing potential scientists

Too many young people are turning their back on science and technology because of faults in the education system, business leaders are warning. A stripped-down science curriculum, a lack of specialist teachers and uninspiring careers advice has produced such a disparity between supply and demand that British-based businesses are already starting to recruit scientists from overseas because of a shortage of UK candidates, the Confederation of British Industry said.

The CBI said the number of A level pupils studying physics has fallen 56 per cent in 20 years. Over the same period those studying A level chemistry has dropped 37 per cent, it added. Despite this, demand for jobs such as chemists, physicists, engineers, and lab technicians has been rising consistently. The CBI now estimates that by 2014 the country will need to have found 2.4 million new people to meet expected need.

CBI Director-General Richard Lambert said: “Employers are increasingly worried about the long-term decline in numbers studying A level physics, chemistry and maths, and the knock-on effect on these subjects, and engineering, at university. They see, at first hand, the young people who leave school and university looking for a job, and compare them to what they need - and increasingly are looking overseas for graduates.”

The Government currently provides training bursaries for science teachers and ‘golden helloes’ but the CBI is urging ministers to build on this work as a priority. The CBI would like to see all pupils given the option to study three separate science GCSEs. It also believes that business must work more closely with Government to highlight the benefits of science as a career in the UK.

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