It’s been in the news this week that the Royal Institution is having financial trouble, and is considering selling its London headquarters at Albemarle Street. The organisation has done a great deal for the popularisation of mathematics over the years, from including mathematics in its series of annual Christmas Lectures (delivered by Christopher Zeeman in 1978, by Ian Stewart in 1997 and Marcus Du Sautoy in 2006) as well as running an excellent series of mathematics and engineering masterclasses for primary and secondary schools, since 1981. They also have a dedicated maths team, who post maths resources on the Ri website.
Professor Sir Harry Kroto, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, has started a blog called “Save the Ri” and posted a highly outraged open letter calling on interested parties to “make it clear to the Government and others in positions of responsibility that we are outraged by the decision to put the premises up for sale”. He’s also posted a statement outlining the situation, and indicating his support of the ‘Save 21 Albemarle Street’ campaign, on Facebook and Twitter.
UPDATE: MP Valerie Vaz has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament about this, although it currently only has 9 signatures. There’s also an e-petition, calling for the government to purchase the building and let the Ri stay there permanently.
The Telegraph reports that a survey of career aspirations of 1,000 pupils aged six to 16 by the Royal Institution’s L’Oreal Young Scientist Centre has been published to coincide with the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham this week.
Findings reported include:
49.4 per cent of children thought STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) were too difficult or boring while 15 per cent thought they were only relevant to jobs in medicine.
The Telegraph gives the “top ten dream careers” given by pupils in the survey (remember the age range is six to 16!):
1. Professional Athlete
3. Secret Agent
10. Zoo Keeper
The Mirror, coving the same story, highlights that this list includes “being a vet, an astronaut, a pilot, a doctor or a zoo keeper”, and points out that all of these need STEM qualifications.
The focus of both articles is on cuts to careers advice since the election. David Porter, Manager of the Royal Institution’s L’Oréal Young Scientist Centre, is quoted saying: “Face to face careers guidance is extremely important, but this survey shows that students are not all receiving the right guidance to lead them in the right direction.”
Telegraph: Half of children find science and maths too difficult or too boring.
Mirror: Careers advice cuts could be putting kids off science.