23 November 2017
MEDIA RELEASE: School laboratory safety: a vital issue
A recent incident in a NSW High School, where six students were hospitalised for chemical exposure, highlights the fundamental importance of laboratory safety in all Australian schools.
The Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) and the Science Education Technicians Australia (SETA) strongly advocate for school laboratory safety. They recognise that supporting teachers and school laboratory technicians to safely manage hands-on activities will allow students to conduct real- life experiments. This will allow schools to deliver one of the key objectives of the National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026, endorsed by Australian Education Ministers as well as implementing the science inquiry component of the Australian Curriculum.
In 2014, ASTA developed an innovative, national advisory service called Science ASSIST. Science ASSIST was established to address a critical need—teachers of science and school laboratory technicians require good quality technical support to enable them to deliver opportunities for meaningful, practical activities for their students. The aim of the service is to improve the safety in the delivery of practical work conducted in school science lessons and to improve the general safety of school science laboratories.
“Educational research and teacher experience all affirm that practical experience in experimental work brings science alive for students. Laboratory learning environments encourage much sought after positive learning behaviours such as independence, critical thinking and problem solving. Laboratory experience is an essential element in increasing students’ enthusiasm for science, and in improving Australia’s performance in international benchmarking in science learning,” said Geoff Quinton, President, Australian Science Teachers Association.
Science ASSIST is the only service of its kind in Australia. It is a dynamic portal that provides school science educators with information, resources and consistent, well-researched, authoritative technical advice on school science laboratory safety and procedures in line with relevant state and territory requirements (https://assist.asta.edu.au/). The Q&A function is heavily subscribed with over 350 questions asked by educators in the school education sector.
This national initiative is currently supported by the Australian Government Department of Education and was developed to complement the service, technical advice and resources for school laboratory safety provided by each of the state and territory education jurisdictions.
It is currently freely available to ALL Australian schools from ALL education jurisdictions and sectors in EVERY state and territory.
A hallmark of Science ASSIST is the dynamic nature of the content and the capacity to respond to emerging national school science safety issues. For example, our response to Asbestos in mineral kits where the Science ASSIST team was instrumental in the issue of a national health and safety alert by the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities.
Science ASSIST needs to be a part of every school STEM educators ‘tool kit’.
Australian Science Teachers Association
For further information contact:
Vic Dobos, ASTA Chief Executive Officer, 0434 611 155
Science Education Technicians Australia