Help the IOP make the case for science


Members of the Institute of Physics have received an email letter from Beth Taylor, Director of Communications and International Relations, Institute of Physics, about the run up to the UK government’s spending review. I have reproduced the letter below with the permission from the Institute of physics.

The letter

Dear Member,

In the lead-up to the Government’s spending review, due to be announced on 26 June, IOP has been working along with many other organisations to support the case for increased investment in science and innovation.

Among other initiatives, we have produced a series of case studies which demonstrate the value of our research to the UK economy, showing how breakthroughs come to impact on our daily lives. Physics: Transforming Lives was launched at a reception at the House of Commons on 6 June, and is available from our website.

IOP has also responded to a consultation on the spending review from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, urging the government to commit to increased investment in science and innovation as a proven source of economic growth.

We welcome the emphasis placed by the Chancellor in recent statements on the importance of investment in science, and believe this government does recognise the return it offers. As many of our competitors continue to increase research funding, the UK needs a science and research budget that grows in real terms, and that balances support between curiosity-driven research and investment in innovation, if we are to retain our strength in research and promote growth in science and technology-based businesses.

Institute members can support us in getting this message across via their MPs –by writing to them directly or attending a constituency surgery – either requesting their support for science before the spending review, or asking them to react to it afterwards.

Yours sincerely,

Beth Taylor
Director of Communications and International Relations,
Institute of Physics

For non-members
Even if you are not a member of the Institute of Physics you too can still join in the effort to support British science. Write to your MP to make sure they get the message; Science is vital to our nation.

Poor numeracy skills in Welsh schools

flag of wales Pupils in half of Wales’ secondary schools and 40% of primary schools have weak numeracy skills, according to Estyn (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education and Training in Wales).

Calculators at the ready!
Estyn state that pupils rely on calculators to do basic arithmetic and so struggle to do harder calculations.

In my experience teaching foundation year students at university level this phenomena is by no means restricted to Welsh, or even British students. Too often pupils reach for the calculator and do not understand the calculation required.

For instance, on more than one occasion have I had a student “call me out” saying that my numerical answer is wrong as it does not agree with their calculator. They can struggle with the fact that they have simply entered the numbers in wrong! This is usually a problem with doing longer calculations in one step and placing brackets in the wrong place.

This has happened when doing physics based questions where we can use our physical intuition to dismiss the incorrect answers. For example, the classical electron radius cannot be of the order 1cm, no matter what your calculator says!

Hey, but I can read good!

We know that many schools have not given as much attention to numeracy as they have done for literacy, but it is vital that schools have clear plans for developing numeracy skills.

Chief inspector Ann Keane

There seems to be a strange situation in the UK where by it is okay to be innumerate, but to be literate is shameful.

Can you imagine ever at a party saying “I wrote a book” only to get the response “I cannot read”? It happens if you tell people you are interested in mathematics!

Well, to read and write are essential life skills, so why not basic mathematics?

Hopefully the state of mind of the country on this issue will change. We now hope that the Welsh government will act on this report and find ways to engage pupils to help develop their mathematics skills.

The report
Numeracy in key stages 2 and 3: a baseline study (opens pdf)

Numeracy: Pupils struggle with sums in Wales says Estyn (BBC News)