Press release

Teacher training receives multimillion-pound boost from government, charity and industry

A scheme to provide professional development for science teachers and technicians has received a renewed commitment of funding of more than £22 million over the next five years from the Department for Education, the Wellcome Trust, BAE Systems, BP, Rolls-Royce and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Launched in 2008 with £27 million from the government, the Wellcome Trust and industry, Project ENTHUSE has already provided over 17,000 bursaries for science teachers and technicians to participate in high-quality residential professional development courses delivered by the National Science Learning Centre in York. Improved science teaching is believed to be key to the turnaround in the decline in the number of students taking sciences and mathematics at A level and to the rapid rise in entries at GCSE level sciences.

Since the launch of Project ENTHUSE, the number of entries in each science GCSE has more than doubled, from 86,000 to 174,000 in biology, from 77,000 to 166,000 in chemistry, and from 75,000 to 161,000 in physics. Over the same period, the number of A-level entries has increased from 56,000 to 64,000 in biology, from 42,000 to 52,000 in chemistry, and from 28,000 to 36,000 in physics.

The National Science Learning Centre at York, together with a network of regional Science Learning Centres, was established in 2003 and funded by the government and the Wellcome Trust to address the shortage of teachers with the necessary skills and knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, following a long period of decline in the popularity of these subjects at A level and GCSE.

A 2012 Expert Review concluded that the courses offered at the National Science Learning Centre are outstanding and have a positive impact on teaching quality, pupil attainment and teacher retention. The recent Ofsted report on school science recommended that teachers have such subject-specific professional development and noted the significant association between schools which participated in such courses and outstanding science, and also teachers’ favourable reporting of National Science Learning Centre courses. Over 17,000 ENTHUSE awards have been made and over two-thirds (70 per cent) of secondary schools have benefited from them.

Today, the Department for Education and the Wellcome Trust have finalised their commitment of a further £10m each over the next five years to Project ENTHUSE, and can also announce that other charitable and industry partners will together contribute an additional £2.3m.

Sir William Castell, Chairman of the Wellcome Trust, says: “The key to the continued rise in the numbers of pupils taking sciences at GCSE and A level is surely professional development for teachers and technicians, in which Project ENTHUSE has played a major part. I am delighted that we are able to commit further support to Project ENTHUSE."

Schools Minister David Laws says: “Project ENTHUSE is a brilliant scheme which supports science teachers in the delivery of more effective, innovative and engaging lessons that inspire young people. Excellent teaching raises standards in schools and narrows the achievement gap. We have also raised the value of bursaries and scholarships available to the brightest graduates so they are attracted to science teaching and can enthuse the next generation of scientists.”

Peter Mather, BP's Regional Group Vice President for Europe, says: “BP believes it is important that all young people are excited and engaged by the STEM subjects, so that they are able to access the fulfilling and rewarding careers that rely on STEM skills. Project ENTHUSE has proved a major success in helping young people to succeed in school. It is good for our industry and for the country to have more young people with STEM skills so we are delighted to continue our support for Project ENTHUSE, which fits with all the other activities BP are undertaking in the field of education.”

John Rishton, Chief Executive of Rolls-Royce, says: “Britain urgently needs more engineering and science graduates, and effective STEM teaching in school is where that journey begins. Rolls-Royce has been a sponsor of Project ENTHUSE since its foundation and is proud to support its continuing mission to inspire Britain’s next generation of scientists and engineers.”

Nigel Whitehead, Group Managing Director of Programmes & Support for BAE Systems, says: “BAE Systems is proud to continue our support of Project ENTHUSE. Teachers play a hugely important role in exciting and inspiring young people to not only study science and engineering but also to pursue careers in those fields. Providing teachers with opportunities for professional development can only help equip them to better educate and advise their students, and to that end the National Science Learning Centre has established an outstanding reputation.”

According to the Wellcome Trust Monitor, an independent nationwide survey, the factor that 14-to-18-year-olds most commonly selected as having encouraged them to learn science was "having a good teacher" (58 per cent), and the most commonly selected factor for discouraging them from learning science was "having a bad teacher" (43 per cent).