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Video: ‘Teachers have got to be allowed to be inspiring’, Professor Brian Cox

12:25 10 July 2014

Brian Cox speaking to the Ilford Recorder at Redbridge College.

Brian Cox speaking to the Ilford Recorder at Redbridge College.


He is known for making science cool with his hugely popular television and radio shows about the solar system and the universe.

Brian Cox facts

n Professor Brian Cox is a Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) Advanced Fellow at the University of Manchester, where he studied himself

n He completed a PhD in high-energy particle physics after his band D:Ream split up, who were famous for number one hit Things Can Only Get Better

n Professor Cox works on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland

n In November last year, he presented a BBC Two programme called The Science of Doctor Who to celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary. He tackled the question of whether time travel could be possible

n Professor Cox is married to American Gia Milinovich, who has recently spoken about being targeted by a burglar earlier this year. She punched him so hard in the face that he fled

But Professor Brian Cox says there is still a lot more work to be done in Britain’s education system to inspire pupils.

As a speaker at an award ceremony at Redbridge College, Chadwell Heath, seven years ago, the physicist and former musician was so impressed by the establishment he handed back his fee saying “buy yourself a computer or something”.

He was then made patron and has returned every year since.


Last week, Brian visited the college in Barley Lane to celebrate the launch of a new 250-seat theatre and spoke to the Recorder about the importance of looking beyond the National Curriculum.

“We have problems today with the syllabus. There’s a whole other level of fascinating stuff which you will get to but you need to know you are going to get to it so for me the trick is not to be too prescriptive.

“You need a balance between learning the basics and having this inspirational cutting edge stuff and you can.”

Brian, who has presented Wonders of the Universe and The Infinite Monkey Cage for the BBC, added: “In biology you could ask some relatively dull questions or start asking questions about the origin of life or what are the commonalities between a bacteria and me… and it becomes interesting. Too strict a curriculum is for me a problem. You need to let the teachers be inspiring. Teachers know how to inspire kids. That’s their jobs: it’s what they want to do.”

Brian, who teachers at University of Manchester, said he is considering setting up day courses or summer schools so researchers can pass on the most current knowledge to teachers so they can best inspire children.

Although Brian was a science fanatic from the off, he disagrees that education should be an arduous series of examinations.

He was always interested in “lots of things” and enjoyed partying at famous Manchester club the Hacienda in his late teens before becoming the keyboard player for pop band, D:Ream.

“I don’t think it [the education system] should be seen as a production line producing cannon fodder for a knowledge economy,” he said. “It’s supposed to be about having a good time and learning to appreciate learning and enjoy gathering knowledge.”

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