Primary pupils love science experiments, but don’t want to be the scientists of the future, researchers have found.

An evaluation of a project to promote science in Scottish primary schools found some pupils still think science is too hard, while others can’t see themselves as scientists because they don’t know anyone who works in the field.

The report by academics at Glasgow University also identified low confidence among some teachers as a barrier.

However, researchers praised the four-year Raise Project, funded by the Wood Foundation, set up in eight council areas across Scotland to improve the confidence, skills and science support networks for primary teachers.

The report, by The Robert Owen Centre at Glasgow University, said challenges identified by headteachers and teachers also included securing resources for practical experiments and finding ways to prioritise science alongside literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing.

The report said: “Science activities were popular among P2-P4 pupils. A clear majority of the pupils really enjoy taking part in all of the science activities listed. Doing experiments in class was the most enjoyed activity

“P5-P7 pupil beliefs regarding science were generally positive. There was a strong indication that many of the pupils were keen to be involved with science when they left school.

“However, there was little indication that they could see themselves as a scientist in the future, which may coincide with the relatively low levels of those who know someone who works in science.”

Researchers said a key strength of the new approach in Raise schools was the use of primary science development officers (PSDOs) to help teachers expand on existing science education.

These officers are supported by a national education officer for primary science, employed by The Wood Foundation, but seconded to national schools body Education Scotland.

The Robert Owen Centre report concluded: “The evidence to date strongly indicates that the PSDOs are working effectively to promote Raise objectives and that the national education officer has had a critical role in ensuring the coherence of the overall approach and in supporting the development of the PSDOs.”

Sharon Smith, the PSDO for West Dunbartonshire Council, believes the Raise approach is having a significant impact.

She said the key to success was engaging with families as early as possible to ensure they had a positive attitude towards the study of science.

“We have been holding science open evenings to get whole families to come to school and take part in experiments. We had families building model propeller boats and getting them to move across a water trough,” she explained.

“I had a grandmother try out the experiment and she said she had always been rubbish at science at school, but was delighted she could do it and that is the key.

“By involving the parents and the grandparents you are starting to re-write some of the mindsets they have from their own experiences of much more traditional science experiments.”

Mrs Smith said modern science lessons should be focused on investigation to allow pupils to come up with their own ideas for research and then back it up with experiments.

“It is trying to build up the habits of trial and error in a group setting where they are working as a team and learning from mistakes. We find a lot more buzz about the lessons and much more of a focus on on investigating and being curious.”

Headteachers in West Dunbartonshire have welcomed the new approach. Karen Hollern, headteacher at Balloch Primary, said: “The programme has permeated our whole curriculum and our pupils have benefited hugely from being involved in it.

“They have gained in confidence, engaged with teachers and have shown great enthusiasm for the various different experiments and practical projects we have undertaken.”

A spokeswoman for The Wood Foundation said the creation of strong foundations for science in primary was critical to developing the workforce of the future. She said: “Nurturing natural curiosity and building upon the interest in Stem from this early stage will help raise aspirations and broaden future employment opportunities.”

The Raise project is currently running in Higland, Moray, West Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Angus, Dumfries and Galloway and Fife councils.