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Major review of science education shown University of Bradford in the right place at the right time

28 June 11

The Director of the University of Bradford's robotic telescope (BRT) team has made a formal submission to the House of Common Science and Technology select committee. The submission report shares the unique insights the pioneering project has provided in terms of improving practical science education in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

The submission to the committee has been made ahead of the first of two oral evidence sessions to begin on Wednesday 29 June. These continue the committee’s ongoing inquiry into ways to improve practical teaching of the sciences nationwide, and will involve testimony from senior figures in the fields of education provision and scientific research, including the Chief Executive of the British Science Association.

The University of Bradford’s School of Informatics hosts the Bradford robotic telescope team (BRT), operating the only robotic web-based practical science education programme anywhere in the world. The autonomous telescope, based in Tenerife, allows over 55,000 pupils and 1,800 teachers to utilise it to collect data.

The ability of schools to use the telescope is accompanied by a tailored professional development programme for teaching staff, and related to several areas of the National Curriculum. This is delivered to primary school pupils from age ten, and in secondary schools to pupils up to the age of eighteen, including maths and physics teaching and creative subjects such as Art and English.

In addition to this, there are over 35,000 other users around the world who utilise the BRT project system, with the British Council having funded the translation of BRT Education Materials into Chinese. Presentations have been made at a number of schools in conjunction with a pilot project to develop practical science in Chinese schools, involving the education authorities of Guangdong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong (Pearl River Delta) and the Beijing Postgraduate University.

Analysis of the applications to the University of Bradford STEM departments, those offering qualifications in science, technology, engineering or mathematics related subjects, has suggested some staggering results in the early stages of the BRT programme. For September 2010 applications were shown to have increased by an average 30% from schools where pupils had encountered the project and related work. The Robotic Telescope group have now signed agreements with other Universities hoping to mirror this trend by extending participating schools to the South East, London and Scotland.

Commenting on his submission to the select committee, John Baruch as project director and academic lead for the research team said: "We seem to be in the right place at the right time. Following the financial meltdown everyone is starting to be interested in manufacturing and innovation. Practical science is at the heart of developing innovation at school. Normally it takes decades to give teachers the expertise to deliver practical science but the Education Programmes of the University of Bradford Robotic Telescope deliver a short cut to practical science, educating the teachers and the students together. It should be a big help in rebuilding manufacturing and job opportunities in the UK."

- The Bradford Robotic Telescope installation is part of the Observatorio del Teide site of the Instituto De Astrofisica De Canarias, in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. The Teide Observatory is the best in Europe and is situated at an altitude of 2,400 metres (7,874 feet) on the northern part of the volcano caldera.

To see the project online please visit: - Bradford Robotic Telescope website

28 June 11

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For further information please contact the University of Bradford Press Office on 01274 23 3089/3084.

Out of office hours call 07879 437996. Alternatively, e-mail or fax on (01274) 236280.