Red tape blocks school science lessons

IT'S the age-old question - which came first, the chicken or the egg? Queensland's 650,000 school students are now unlikely to be given the chance to find out after a recent crackdown was ordered on egg hatching in classrooms. In a decision criticised for tying schools up in more red tape, teachers must now submit a 15-page application form before their students can watch chickens hatch from eggs in an incubator.

Teachers are now saying the paperwork is too time-consuming and they won't bother with the once-popular classroom activity. The application form is the same one used to gain approval to dissect rats and toads in school laboratories.

The ruling that books and chooks don't mix has led to the cancellation of dozens of hatching kit orders after some Catholic schools booked incubators in time for Easter before realising they now needed formal approval from the Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee.

Exasperated owners of hatching kit businesses fear at least 1000 unwanted embryo eggs that had been pre-ordered must now be destroyed.

Ann Richardson of Henny Penny Hatching said schools had been threatened with fines of more than $30,000 if they hatched eggs in the classroom without formal approvals, which could take six months. "Teachers are just finding it too hard," she said. "There was no negotiation. We don't know what to do."

One teacher wrote to Ms Richardson in dismay at the decision, saying bean plants would prove a poor substitute for her life-cycle classes.

Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg said the paperwork burden had made it "virtually impossible" for teachers to continue the activity. "It is really a case of bureaucracy and red tape being imposed on the education of our children to their detriment," he said. "Any animal, whether at home or school, should be treated humanely, but our children have a right to learn about the natural world."

Teachers were previously able to conduct chicken hatching in schools without formal permission.

But Animal Ethics Committee project officer Brad McConachie said that has changed after advice from the State Government that poultry programs in schools needed formal approval by the committee under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 code of practice.

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said chicken hatching was complex and the welfare of the animals needed to be taken seriously.


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