On 15 October Abingdon School 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 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 by investing in science we can help to inspire the scientists of the future.”
Abingdon School has a very strong reputation for science teaching and achieves excellent results at both A Level and GCSE. This year 60% of all passes at A level in the science subjects were awarded an A* or A grade and a staggering 99% of boys gained an A* or A grade at iGCSE Physics. The STEM subjects have always been a very popular choice for boys to go on to study at university with around 40% of all the subjects chosen by Abingdon boys in 2015 being science or engineering related.
And 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, gifted and talented events and delivers the British Science Association’s CREST Star Award programme to hundreds of primary school children. ASP also works with organisations such as Science Oxford bringing 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 building houses a large outreach laboratory that 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 an inspirational sculpture designed and built by sculptor Matthew Lane Sanderson. The sculpture, which was made possible by a donation from Martin Iredale, a former pupil, 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 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 Science Partnership: www.abingdon.org.uk/abingdon_science_partnership
Professor Sir David Weatherall MD, FRCP, FRS (b. 1933) is one of the UK's most distinguished scientists. He qualified in medicine at Liverpool University in 1956 and, following periods in Liverpool and Baltimore, he became the Nuffield Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Oxford followed by the Regius Professor of Medicine. Following retirement, he holds the post of Regius Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University. His major research contributions have been in the elucidation of the clinical and molecular basis and population genetics of the thalassaemias and the application of this information for the control and prevention of these diseases in the developing countries. In 1989 he founded the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford, which now bears his name. He has received numerous national and international awards. As well as being a Fellow of the Royal Society he is a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences, USA.