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Introducing openness into education

What are the differences between Key Stage 1 (under 7 years), Key Stage 2 (7-11 years), Key Stage 3 (11-18 years) and further education?

Summary of Discussion

The general question was “What sort of level of Openness should we deliver to the different stages of education?”. This was aimed at the outreach and widening participation events that we may host in our institutions but also what is currently experienced through curriculum and general education.

As education increasingly seems to focus on core subjects such as English and Maths, are we failing to implement appropriate science education? Is an awareness of the use of animals in research require as standard education, should this be within biology fields or citizenship and ethics. If it is required, what age is appropriate for this knowledge and discussion


First of all we discussed if animal research and education about this area was on the national curriculum.

KS1 and KS2 are not taught anything specifically about animal research or animal ethics.  It is important to state that although we did discuss the age group and come up with some conclusions about their education, the majority of the discussed was based on KS3 and beyond.

It was generally agreed that the only way that KS3 may learn anything about animal research would be through citizenship or ethics in science lessons. Ethics in science is, however, such a broad topic that it was only some children that would actually learn and discuss this specific area.

It had been assumed that A-levels would cover this areas but Biology A level did not, unless they specialised in animal care. Again the teacher may choose this as an interesting ethical discussion point but it is not compulsory.

We discussed the fact that you actually have to be studying Animal care (level 2 diploma) to learn about animals in research. Module 1 looks at the ethics of research. It was the general experience, however, that tutors lacked knowledge in delivering this subject area.

The attendees experiences

People that attended this session had experience with all stages and the different Key Stages were discussed. There was a mixture of venues for outreach, several people go into schools and colleges and some host events in house. Most went into state schools and academies and did not identify the students that they met as privileged.

Strathclyde does a lot of outreach with 14-15 years as part of ethics in citizenship. The work involves both going out to schools and bringing children into the facility.

UCL as a University loves outreach but the animal facilities are only just starting to think about this. They are beginning by attending careers fairs and found it to be very challenging but ultimately rewarding.  Carole Wilson said  “Children can be very brutal in their assessment”

Laura Roberson from Agenda had a lot of experience educating further education students within the animal care and animal management courses at several universities and colleges (10-12/year). She delivers a selection of lessons and many students get the opportunity to learn a great deal because she is able to give increasingly detailed lectures throughout each course. She finds that quite often the teachers are unable to deliver this subject matter. Initially, she only gained access to these courses because she is an employer, the education of this area was a secondary consideration for higher education.

The RSCPA representative Penny Hawkins shared the interests of the RSPCA in education. They are trying to get animal research education on the agenda at doctoral schools. This training would include the 3Rs, ethics and an insight into how new drugs are discovered.  The RSPCA do not deliver any of this, however, they train the trainer.

Joanne Bland and Claire Allen from the University of Sheffield discussed some of the work that we do.

The University of Sheffield (TUOS) was built on penny donations from the working man to enable their children to attend University. This ethos is still upheld and as such there is a great emphasis on outreach and widening participation at TUOS.

Joanne reported that many Sheffield researchers do go out into schools during science week. They deliver a range of lessons. She is also in the process of developing a programme with widening participation at KS3. There is a July summer school where the animal unit will offer an event on “Animals in research”. Initially this will be optionally but may become compulsory if uptake is low. These events will include a researcher talk and a tour of the facility. Numbers will be limited.

Interestingly, Joanne shared the fact that there needs to be special permission for under 16’s to enter an animal facility (mammalian not aquatic) due to the elevated levels of allergens.

Joanne has now been approached to run a debate based on animals in research.

Claire Allen manages the Bateson Centre outreach programme and delivers many outreach and widening participation events throughout the year to all levels of education. Additional events are managed in Sheffield by our NC3Rs representative.

KS1 We have a Discovery night targeting this age audience.

KS2 We have 6 workshops each year where the children come to us for the day. We reach out to over 360 children.

KS3 We give talks and tours to selected “Discover STEM potential” groups. We attend exhibitions such as STEM for girls. These are all preselected students for their potential in science. We have work experience for KS3

Higher education We frequently host work experience placements for a variety of Animal Management level 3 students and sometimes Applied Science students. We go out into colleges to deliver Animals in Research talks and many researchers get involved giving lectures about their work at events such as A Pint of Science, with one such event entitled “Alternatives to Research Requiring Rodents”.

The general discussion then carried on.

Educating with fish verses mammals.

Is it harder with mammalian species? Absolutely. Yes was the answer. Presenting zebrafish for outreach are pretty easy and rarely provoke a negative response. It is perhaps easy to hide behind fish but it is important not to.

Often the truth about the life of animals in a research facility is not that exciting.

It is important that whatever you are disseminating, where ever it is delivered and to whom, it must be genuine, honest and based on clear facts.

Opening doors and not opening doors

Everyone agreed that more doors needed to be opened (metaphorically). Education needs to be expanded. I would even go so far as to say that this needs to more embedded into specific curriculum, specifically in A level Biology or compulsory citizenship courses. General studies if widely taken would be an ideal area.

Tours do open the doors. Facilities that do run courses such as Sanger, Leicester and Glasgow were all discussed. These are successful.

Concern was raised, and then widely agreed by the  group, that tours of facilities, particularly mammalian facilities, could be counter intuitive to the health and wellbeing of the animals. They may stress animals out. A virtual tour was then discussed where a group of visitors are able to look around a facility through a lens. No area is no-go.

How to run sessions.

In coming views and challenging them to potentially change

Students could be asked to fill out a questionnaire about their opinions at the start of the event and then you can see if you can change their views at the end.

How far can you go showing procedures? How open, how restrictive. Be responsible.

Laura from Agenda does show videos of animals that have undergone procedures- handling, housing and some procedures. This lesson was only delivered after the students have been taught the ethics and basics of animal research. This level was directed at those that are considering a career in animal tech work.

Penny from the RSPCA felt that this would be very much age appropriate.  Some age groups will not respond well and you will not be able to get everyone on board.  With general groups it is very much a case of stick to the facts, educate as many as you can about benefits, but also cover potential risks and problems.

For work experience students they maybe exposed to Schedule 1 procedures so vetting before the placement and explanations of the work is critical. The provider  needs to manage expectations. Knowledge of end points for higher education students should not be left out.

For all ages groups a clear message of; You must take care of yourself and take your medicine. Look after nature, pets, support animals but do not worry about the medicine that you need.

How do you manage a debate?

Helpful if the students tutor is there

Must have at least some facts before you debate

Always remember the cosmetics argument. The high street store Lush still advertises that they are against animal testing. Give clear facts about UK law on this and other banded chemical groups such as household products.

Always ask the audience what they know already

Gage the audience’s view, perhaps get them to vote and then see if this is changed at the end of the session

This measuring of opinion could be done using a spectrum of opinion. E.g. “Can do anything if humans benefit” to “Animals must never suffer”. Do people move as a result of the debate?

Voting can be done with the use of an app called SOCRATIVE. It is free. You get people to download it. Set up a questionnaire ready for the debate and everyone votes on their phones.

Include researchers or YouTube movies of researchers

As an alternative you could always consider debating welfare rather than ethics.

Studying addiction in animals could be a good topic to consider

One idea is for the group to be split up. Each group has to defend the mission statement of a pre-selected set of organisations, companies and groups. They must defend the point of view as if it was their own, regardless of their person opinion.

A pass the parcel game with statements for and against animal testing in each layer could open up discussions in smaller groups.

If you are not experienced delivering debates it is always a very good idea to contact the local student’s union debating society. They will be able to help structure the debate and provide a lead for the session that it closer to the age of the students that we are.


UAR website and train people in giving talks about Animals in research

Agenda do teach the teacher and tutors some

RSPCA train that teachers

Debate education is on the RSPCA website


KS1 (under 7 years old) Direct “Animals in Research” education is not suitable for this age group. We all ruled it out as a possibility. Farm, pet or zoo animal welfare may be a good discussion point.

Zebrafish outreach works very well for this age group. Craft and fluorescent or light microscopy work very well. Basic biology of fish, relate to human health.

KS2 (under 11 years old) A basic message is possible with this age group. A review of their knowledge is helpful but remember they have very mixed abilities.

More medically related workshops can work. Zebrafish are once again a good tool to develop knowledge.

This age group need to be a little bit more aware and can be given messages such as

Medicine is very important to keep you and your family healthy. Zebrafish and other model organisms are used to help develop new medicines.

You must take care of yourself and take your medicine. Look after nature, pets, support animals but do not worry about the medicine that you need.

Social media becomes a very important source of information for this age group.

What Google says counts, remember how right it is about the greatest! What images are out there? Is it clear the images are from the UK and are they current?

False news could be a problem.

KS3 (under 14 years old) and KS4 (under 16 years old)

Sessions could now include small fury animals. Could start to show normal behaviour, husbandry and welfare issues. Limit the message and explain that suffering is not allowed. Ethics can be introduced.

Wendy from Understanding Animal Research said that they thought that it was best to spend any funds on GCSE level stages. It would be good to work on this sector more and it is often a good idea to get technicians to go out into schools.

By targeting this group you can encourage a career in animal care.

Higher education

This is the group of students that will have specialised and should receive this education if they are doing certain courses. Currently tutors are not well versed in delivering this information and the subject is not compulsory even for students studying high levels of Animal Care and Management.

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