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Zoe Louise Matthews | ASY-EOS | UK

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Every child deserves high quality education

It has been a long time since my last blog. It has been, and will continue to be, a very busy time for me, with thesis progress, job searches and relocation plans. As is often true of summer, there are many weddings and other celebrations going on too. However, in the middle of this busy time we can always find a few minutes if it really matters, and I am writing this blog to urge you to take action.

Phil Chater, my partner, finally graduated with his Chemistry PhD last week, and during the ceremony Simon Singh (something of a role model of mine) was awarded an honorary doctorate. If you haven’t heard of him, he has done great things for the publicity of physics and mathematics in books and documentaries (I recommend “Fermat’s Last Theorem”, “Big Bang” and “Trick or Treatment: Medicine on Trial”) and he co-founded the STEM ambassador scheme that brings undergraduates into schools in outreach projects. In 2008 he began a fight against a lawsuit from the British Chiropractic Association because of an article he wrote in the Guardian questioning what evidence exists to support the effectiveness of certain treatments for children’s diseases. He was not the first to be targeted as a single person for simply speaking out and encouraging others to question and not blindly trust (he did not make any false accusations!). They were unsuccessful in their suit, but the case only recently ended and the effects were still very damaging for him. However, many people were enraged by this case and took action, writing to their MPs in a call for English Libel Reform, and hitting back at misleading chiropractic claims.

At the graduation, he gave an inspiring speech that illustrated that the action of one person can make a difference. Jack of Kent’s blog encouraged so many to sign a petition calling for the reform (sign it here) (read more here) that it is no longer something that can be sidelined or ignored. The blogger should be a role model to all of us – a sign that if you believe in something, you can make a difference if you take action. This was the confidence I needed after rallying so hard to save my experiment’s funding in the UK.

In the spirit of taking action I now write about the Early Day Motion 467, a document I am urging my MP to sign, and if you can relate to the issues I write below then please ask your MP to do the same. The document expresses concern at the current lack of specialist physics teachers (a quarter of all 11–16 schools in England have no specialist physics teacher) and the consequent drastic drop in the number of entrants to physics A-level (a sixth of these schools fail to send any students to study A Level Physics). It is a recognition of the threat that this poses to UK physics and engineering, and therefore to the UK economy. Every child should have access to high quality (and enthusiastic) physics teaching, and if anything can be done to break this cycle of rapidly evaporating physics teachers and physics students in the country, it should be done soon. I hope that in my future I can work to inspire students to undertake Physics A level and even a Physics degree – not only to save the economy and research in this country but because we need more Simon Singhs/Ben Goldacres in this world – those who will look at the world through skeptical, scientific eyes and encourage others to do the same.

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