Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 94

Supplementary submission from the University of Leicester



  The National Space Education Initiative was a broad idea developed by the BNSC partners to try to raise the profile of Space as an important tool for stimulating schools student engagement with science. While Charles Clarke was Secretary of State for Education, this idea received warm encouragement and more detailed plans were developed. As part of this, I was commissioned to carry out a study of what was going on in Space Education and to produce some costed proposals as what could be done to improve coordination and deliver more effectively the wide range of activities that had already been funded through outreach grants. This work was carried out in the period March to September 2005 and the report on the study, "Bringing Space into School Science" (sometimes referred to as the Barstow Report) was published on October 2005.

  A number of events conspired to limit the opportunity to make progress following the publication of the report. During the study, Charles Clarke was replaced as Secretary of State by Ruth Kelly. As a result, the interest in Space Education (encouraged by Charles Clarke) disappeared and the re-arrangement of the department created a significant discontinuity in the involvement of DfES in the project. Furthermore, expected financial support from DfES for carrying out the report's recommendations evaporated. Shortly after the publication of my report, Colin Hicks, BNSC Director General retired and was replaced by David Williams. Inevitably, it has taken some time for Dr Williams to familiarise himself with his role as DG and to find time, within all his priorities, to revisit Space Education.

  It is possible that some of the recommendations of my report may be delivered by a new initiative to establish a European Space Resource Office (ESERO) in the UK, by ESA. ESA have pilot offices operating elsewhere in Europe but had not planned one in the UK in the first phase. However, they received an offer from Yorkshire Forward to host one using Regional Development funds. Subsequently, BNSC have begun working with Yorkshire Forward to develop this and engage the national community. So far substantive progress seems to be slow. The whole idea has been discussed in several meetings since August 2005 and we don't yet seem to be at the stage of actually doing anything.

  I was very please to be able attend the Parliamentary Space Committee event on 8 November, where our current Secretary of State for Education met the STS-121 Astronauts. It was nice to hear Alan Johnson talk about the importance of Space in science education and I wrote to him afterwards, enclosing a copy of my report. He has written back but avoided offering the DfES lead that I had hoped for, pushing the responsibility back to BNSC. One of my key recommendations was that Space should be adopted nationally as a flagship topic to enhance science teaching and it seems to me that this has to come from the DfES if teachers are going to sign up to the idea.

January 2007

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2007
Prepared 17 July 2007