The Role of a School Science Technician

My first post of the new year is not about living in Belgium but about the role that a Science Technician plays in a successful Science Department.

A number of times I have been asked to explain what I do, but it’s difficult as there are so many different things. One of the companies that support Science Departments (Sciencecraft) asked what was it like to be a Technician and this was the reply from Chris Hardie working in a school in Middlesex:

http://blog.sciencecraft.co.uk/

Fast forward to 2015 and I am one of the lucky ones who has been recognised for my achievements over the last few years which has culminated in my current role as Head Technician at BSB, one of the best schools in Europe. Without the advice and support from the many Technicians and Teachers I have had the pleasure of speaking to I would not be where I am today.

Because of this I try everyday to support other Technicians. As a member of The ASE Technicians Committee we discuss ways that we can support and improve not only how we do our job, but to ensure that people outside of Science can see the valuable role that we provide. We encourage more Technicians to apply for RSCi and RScitech. This is to show employers that we have the skills and experience to do the job. It also shows a commitment to the role.

http://www.ase.org.uk/professional-development/registered-science-technician-rscitech/

In 2013 I set up a forum for Technicians to complement the other ones available. In under 18 months this community has expanded to nearly 700 technicians who on a daily basis go out of their way to support others, share amazing ideas for new practicals or help us to improve our skills. In an age when education is losing money it is becoming increasingly difficult to be able to attend external CPD courses but this is the next best thing.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/schoolsciencetechnicians/

Inspired by others I set up a questionnaire and shared it across the internet to find out more about the Science Technician Community and found some interesting stats. Out of 627 replies:

80% of Science Technicians are female

0% Science Technicians were under 21 and only 10% were under 30. Only 20% were under 40.

25% have been a Technician for over 20 years

50% are educated to degree level including 10 who are P.H.D’s

65% had attended an external CPD course in the last 2 years

The full results of the survey can be found here:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1xSLZLqFuOXhkfjYUC_TBjnzdcr8Oxz2oJRH0B43uDfE/viewanalytics

The biggest concern here is the ages of Technicians. With so few younger people joining our profession it is becoming less and less attractive as a career for the under 30’s and who can blame them? One of the questions I asked was what one thing would you change about being a Technician? Out of all the responses there were a couple of big things to come out. Now if you are a Technician these will not surprise you…

Better pay.

Lack of recognition for the skills we have.

These 2 responses are linked together but unfortunately a lot of schools and educational establishments can’t see this. Whenever I see jobs advertised it is very rare that the pay is over £20,000 even for a Senior Technician. For a Science Technician, pay is usually advertised at below £17,000 and even rarer that the job is full time. When you then look at the job requirements it nearly always asks for the candidate to be educated to degree standard. How many other jobs do you know where that level of education pays so low?

It is when you look at the actual job descriptions you realise how little school management understands our role. Often you see jobs such as photocopying, displays and invigilation listed as part of the job description. Departments that don’t have Technicians have to do their own so why is it different in Science? Until the majority of leadership realise we are more than just “staff who can do things teachers aren’t allowed to” nothing will change.

That’s where we come in. As a Technician who has managed to get Leadership to see my role as one that should be respected and the benefits it can bring in improving the Science Department, I call on other Technicians to do the same. Invite your Headteacher up to observe when you are demonstrating to a class, take photos of experiments were you can see students enjoying the Science, get involved in open nights so parents can see who you are. Promote yourself!

We are very lucky at the moment that we have the support of so many outside agencies who are trying to convince schools of our value. Some of these include The ASE, CLEAPSS, The Science Council, Science Learning Centres, Gatsby and companies such as Gratnells and Sciencecraft to name a few.

There are also a lot of Technicians getting involved in discussions on Twitter and promoting our role including @LammasScience @ASETechs @TechknowUK @Chimbles84 @quinnell75 and many more. We even started a Technician Tweetup last year which runs on the 1st Wednesday of the month. Previous ones can be found here:

https://storify.com/ASETechs

So although it can seem a bit doom and gloom at times we love our job and always do our best to ensure that students get the most out of their Science lessons and want to go on and study Science in the future. YOU can make a difference, YOU just have to believe.

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