Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
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Science Minister attends chemistry master-class for teachers aiming for the wow factor

Science Minister Lord Drayson dropped into a centre last week where teachers return to the classroom to transform their practical skills and inspire the scientists of tomorrow.

The Minister will discover how a programme offered by the Science Learning Centre East Midlands at the University of Leicester helps teachers to learn new knowledge and techniques to deliver science classes which are even more exciting and relevant.

These include a multitude of hands-on practical challenges such as the “Cannon Fire” demonstration which uses chemicals to produce explosive noises and flames or the “blue bottle experiment” – where a clear liquid made up of two chemicals turns a dramatic Leicester City FC blue when shaken.

At the centre, Lord Drayson will meet the latest intake of 13 teachers on its TDA funded Science Additional Specialism Programme (SASP), aimed at teachers who want to teach physics or chemistry to students aged 11-19 but do not have a degree or Secondary Initial Teacher Training specialism in the subject.

Currently they are non-specialist chemistry teachers, while some lead classes in other subjects, predominantly another science, PE or technology. SASP combines hands-on practical sessions alongside theory work, so that they can deliver exciting science lessons which challenge pupils and appeal to their natural curiosity.

Lord Drayson said:

"Science is exciting. Whether as teachers or ministers, we must communicate that to young people. Science careers provide some of the most rewarding and stimulating jobs available. It's crucial that we inspire today's pupils to become the next generation of scientists and take on the big challenges ahead - such as climate change."

Since opening in 2004, more than 7,000 teachers, technicians and teaching assistants have graduated from the Science Learning Centre. The SASP course has been running for chemistry since July and the centre plans to start offering a new one for physics from July 2010.

The centre’s director, Sue Bull, said:

"We are delighted that Lord Drayson has chosen to visit the Science Learning Centre East Midlands at the University of Leicester. We hope he'll be able to see that by working closely with colleagues from across the University we provide the very best training opportunities for all those involved in science education across the region.”

Notes to Editor

1. There will be opportunities to take photos, film and/or interview the Minister during his visit to the centre.

For more information about photo/filming opportunities or to bid to interview the Minister, please contact:

Rachel Clarke
BIS press office
18002 020 7215 5945 
For more information about the Science Learning Centre, please contact

Ather Mirza
University of Leicester Press Office
0116 252 3335 

2. More details about the photo/broadcasting opportunity

The teachers are starting a piece of work during the day on ‘quantitative chemistry’.

Lord Drayson will also be encouraged to join in one of their hands-on practicals called the ‘blue bottle experiment’ and discover for himself how science lessons can be more exciting and engaging for pupils.

Two chemicals are mixed to provide a blue solution which on standing goes completely colourless. But after he shakes the bottle, the Minister will see the colour change dramatically to Leicester City FC blue again! When the liquid settles down again, the colour reverses back to colourless.

The teachers will be set this as a problem to solve throughout the day – to work out why this is happening. This should be a very visual experiment for photo or broadcasting opportunities.

3. The Minister for Science and Innovation is visiting the centre prior to attending the regional meeting of the Cabinet in Nottingham in the afternoon. During his visit he will meet the centre’s director, Sue Bull.

He will also meet senior academics from the University of Leicester

· Professor Mark Thompson, Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor with special responsibility for Resources

· Professor Martin Barstow, Head of the College of Science & Engineering and Professor of Astrophysics and Space Science

· Professor Janet Ainley, Head of the School of Education

· Professor Paul Cullis, Professor of Organic Chemistry

4. The Science Learning Centre East Midlands opened in October 2004 and is led by the University of Leicester, working with organisations including the University of Nottingham and Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln. Covering the whole of the East Midlands region, the Science Learning Centre aims to offer the best in professional development to everyone involved in science education. It is part of the national network of Science Learning Centres; there are nine other Regional Centres across the country led by the National Science Learning Centre at the University of York.

5. The University of Leicester is a member of the 1994 Group of universities that share a commitment to research excellence, high quality teaching and an outstanding student experience. It was Named University of the Year by Times Higher (2008/09) and Shortlisted (2006, 2005) and by the Sunday Times (2007). It is ranked top with Cambridge for student satisfaction amongst full time students taught at mainstream universities in England and is ranked as a Top 20 university by the Sunday Times, Guardian,Times and UK Complete University Guide, published in The Independent.

Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our future.


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