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    20 September, 2006

    Science Policy

    We launched the Enterprise Committee's report on Science Policy yesterday. There doesn't seem to be a link to the report, so here's the Western Mail report. I spoke in the subsequent debate, focusing on the issue of engaging school-children in science:

    Leighton Andrews: I echo the remarks of fellow Members and thank Chris Gwyther for the way in which she has chaired this review, which has drawn in much evidence from many different interest groups within Wales. I am also grateful for the work done by our specialist adviser.

    I will speak on a fairly narrow point in respect of the report, which starts where Chris Gwyther finished. This is about the need to encourage younger people to take up science. I will talk about an example of good practice run by the Mid Glamorgan Education Business Partnership, which operates in a number of local authority areas. Specifically, I will talk about the work that it does in the Rhondda, where there is some good practice on which we could be building. I pay tribute to the work that is done by Keith Gillard and his team. This work is not just confined to my constituency—it goes across Rhondda Cynon Taf—but, as ever, I will be a bit of a Rhondda nationalist.

    There are 21 after-school science clubs in the Rhondda, with 350 children gaining first or young investigators science awards in the primary sector. Ceremonies are held in Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre twice a year where these children are given certificates for completing projects in their schools. The emphasis of the schemes is to introduce science to young people in a way that is attractive, engaging and fun, so that they can see some of the benefits and opportunities of engagement in science. Fourteen of those primary schools also hold construction workshops with the aim of providing children with a greater understanding of the construction industry; 700 children have been through those workshops. Eight Rhondda schools have hosted Starlab, which is a mobile planetarium, and, again, 700 children participated in that. Seven schools have also taken part in a project involving healthy eating. The scheme has done an immense amount to introduce young children at an early stage in their academic careers to what science can do.

    At a secondary level, there is a menu of around 20 science activities offered to the five Rhondda secondary schools. Again, take-up in these projects has been very good. For example, there is an electronics project called ‘Minimal Mouse’, where the pupils must design an electronic mouse and race it around a track. schools are visited by apprentices from Bosch and pupils undergo a variety of engineering challenges, and science lectures are held in schools. Special schools throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf, such as Ysgol Hen Felin in the Rhondda, are also engaged in this. Only last week, Ysgol Hen Felin took a party of 21 pupils to Techniquest for a science day, and each November the school visits Dwr Cymru Welsh Water for a science project based on national tree week. That is just a selection of projects that are undertaken. These are good examples of ways in which young people can be brought to science, and we know the importance of sustaining that interest in science as they go through their academic careers if we are to bolster the number of people subsequently going into further and higher education opportunities in sciences.

    There are a number of recommendations in our report. We have tried to bring together thinking across a range of areas as to how we can better co-ordinate the promotion of science policy in Wales in the future, and I look forward to seeing the Government’s response to this in due course.

    Rhondda TV
    The Labour Party

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    Promoted by Leighton Andrews AM, National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff CF99 1NA.

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