Investing in science

Abingdon School’s new £14m science centre will offer benefits for both pupils and the public

Abingdon School recently celebrated the opening of its new Yang Science Centre by Professor Sir David Weatherall, molecular geneticist and Oxford Regius Professor of Medicine from 1992 to 2000. Professor Weatherall is also a former parent at the school. The Yang Science Centre, which houses 21 teaching laboratories, study areas, project rooms and preparatory rooms, will provide a much-needed new base for the school’s science teaching, as some of the current facilities date back to 1949.

Speaking about the new building, headteacher Felicity Lusk said: “The importance of science in education is universally acknowledged and the majority of our boys have a keen interest which we have a responsibility to nurture. The new science centre is integral to this and will encourage the next generation of scientists to explore and innovate. We are fortunate to live in an area which is recognised by the rest of the world for scientific excellence and we hope that by investing in science we can help to inspire the scientists of the future.” 

Abingdon School has enjoyed excellent results in science at both A-level and GCSE. This year 60 percent of all passes at A-level in the science subjects were awarded an A* or A grade and 99 percent of boys gained an A* or A grade at iGCSE Physics. STEM subjects have always been a very popular choice for boys to go on to study at university with around 40 percent of all the subjects chosen by Abingdon boys in 2015 being science- or engineering-related. 

We hope that by investing in science we can help to inspire the scientists of the future

It’s not just the boys at the school who will benefit. The Abingdon Science Partnership (ASP), which is run by the school, aims to encourage local participation in science at all levels and to improve access to science education in schools and the community. ASP works with students, teachers and the public, running science enrichment activities such as family science mornings and gifted and talented events. It also delivers the British Science Association’s CREST Star Award programme to hundreds of primary school children.

In addition, ASP works with organisations such as Science Oxford to bring events to the public. The partnership liaises with local teachers to organise continuing professional development, both for subject specialists and general science teaching. The ground floor of the new science centre building houses a large outreach laboratory which will be an integral part of ASP, enabling groups from outside the school to experience hands-on science activities.

At the heart of the new building will be a sculpture designed and built by sculptor Matthew Lane Sanderson. The sculpture, which was made possible by a donation from former pupil Martin Iredale, represents the three sciences: biology, chemistry and physics. Standing 10m tall, the sculpture morphs from biology on the ground floor through physics to chemistry on the second floor and depicts themes from each discipline, including the tree of life, nuclear fusion and chemical structures. The sculpture will be installed during the Christmas holidays.

The Yang Science Centre cost about £14 million to build, of which £1.3 million was raised by the school with a gift from the Yang family, a grant from the Mercers’ Company and over 400 donations. Construction, which started in spring 2014, has been undertaken with high regard for environmental issues, including a ‘very good’ BREEAM rating. The building has been designed to be narrow in depth with generous glazing in order to maximise natural light. It will also use natural ventilation to reduce energy requirements for cooling. 

Abingdon School W: abingdon.org.uk

 

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