IOP to speak up for science as new government takes key decisions

28 May 2015

The IOP will be at work making the case for science as the new government makes important decisions on funding and policy issues following the State Opening of Parliament and Queen’s Speech on 27 May.

Houses of Parliament

The IOP’s senior policy manager, Alex Connor, said: “The Queen’s Speech marked the beginning of what will be a very important few months for the future of UK science. As well as enacting their programme of legislation, the government will also need to make decisions on the overall funding settlement for UK science. The budget on 8 July will set the scene for public spending throughout this parliament and we hope that this will be an opportunity for the chancellor to continue his strong record of supporting investment in the science base.

“The science budget was protected in cash terms in the 2010 spending round, shielding the investment from deeper cuts and bringing some stability. But this has also resulted in erosion due to inflation with a total real-terms reduction of around £1bn over the five-year spending period.

“As the economy continues to grow, a strong commitment to increasing investment through the science budget over the next period is essential if the UK is to keep pace with its international competitors and retain its position as a world leader in science.”

The schools system in England currently lacks around 3500 specialist physics teachers, and to address this, the previous government set a specific target for recruits to physics teacher training programmes in 2011, he said.

“While this annual target has not yet been met, its introduction did coincide with an increase in the number of teacher trainees entering the profession. However, recent changes to the ways in which teachers are recruited and trained have had the effect of driving down recruitment. We hope that the government will look again at how programmes such as School Direct can be reformed to ensure that the target of 925 specialist teachers recruited every year can be met.”

The new government has already recreated the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee and has set up a new select committee for women and equalities. “These are welcome developments and we will look to work closely with the new committee on topics such as the under-representation of women in physics and the barriers to all wishing to study or work in physics,” he said.