Dozens of schools in Scotland have admitted asking teachers and parents to help pay for practical science activities.
A survey by the Learned Societies’ Group on Scottish Science Education (LSG) found that 98 per cent of the primary and secondaries that responded said they relied on extra sources of income for the practical work.
In secondaries, teachers were most likely to pay and in primaries, parents.
A total of 39 primary schools and 46 secondary schools replied to the survey. More than half of each said they did not have enough equipment and materials for classes, and 82 per cent of secondaries were not confident of having adequate resources for science practicals in the next two years.
The LSG report also highlighted a lower spend on science in Scottish secondaries than English ones – £7.33 per pupil last year, against £10.12 south of the border in 2011/12.
It estimated that the expenditure in England was higher last year too.
Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur said it was impossible to improve science and technology subjects “on the cheap”.
He added: “It’s time for the minister to will the means, not just the ends, on science in our schools.”
Professor Sally Brown, chair of the LSG, said: “Taking part in science practical work at school is an essential part of the learning process.
“It demonstrates the essence of science and the scientific method as it underpins the skills that young people need and the country is seeking.
“We have to ensure that their experiences at school are the very best and we know that much work has still to be done before this will be achieved.”
The LSG, comprising members of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Biology, the Association of Science Education and others, published the findings at the same time as the launch of a new campaign for more primary teachers to come from a scientific background. The Royal Society of Chemistry is urging the Scottish government to ensure all primaries have access to a science subject leader – someone who has specialised in science or who can support other staff in those subjects.
Bristow Muldoon, public affairs advisor of the Royal Society of Chemistry in Scotland, said: “We strongly suspect there is a serious shortage of teachers with a science background in Scottish primary schools. A good science education is crucial to make sure we have a steady supply of skilled scientists for the Scottish economy.”
A Scottish government spokesman said decisions on resourcing were for education authorities and schools.
He added: “We are providing a range of support to both primary and secondary schools to deliver science with Curriculum for Excellence, including giving the Scottish Schools Education Research Centre additional funding for a programme of professional learning for teachers, which offers support for practical activities.”