Higher Biology Podcast – Prof Jason Leitch discusses the science behind COVID Guidance for Schools


In the latest Higher Biology Podcast, published on Monday 7th September, Scotland’s National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch, discusses his learning and career pathway from his biology classroom in secondary school to advising the First Minister on the national COVID emergency. Prof Leitch also answers questions from young people on the science behind COVID guidance for schools, such as the guidance on face coverings in secondary schools.

Created and hosted by biology teacher, Paul Downie (Faculty Head Science, Hyndland Secondary School in Glasgow), this podcast is the latest in a series of interviews with scientists, authors, film-makers, broadcasters, journalists and politicians. The podcast not only provides invaluable depth and insight for students preparing for the SQA Higher Biology qualification, but also provides a fascinating insight into the world around us for anyone with an interest in living things.

The Podcast Programme is just one of 162 projects that have been supported through Education Scotland’s STEM Grants programme in 2019/20. Overall, £1.9 million in funding was made available last year, benefitting an estimated 14,000 practitioners in over 700 establishments. In the initial phase of funding for Hyndland Secondary School, Paul Downie delivered a Cell Biology, Anatomy and Cancer-themed event across twelve schools in partnership with the National Cancer Research Institute. The Institute was holding a major conference in Glasgow in 2019. Following the closure of schools during COVID lockdown, Education Scotland provided flexibility for the remaining funds to be used to support the creation and development of this high quality podcast programme. The podcast has also received support from Leckie and YoungScot, with young people now being rewarded with 100 Young Scot points for every Podcast episode they listen to.

The Higher Biology podcast gives young people in Hyndland Secondary School, and beyond, access to experts from across the globe. An increasing number of Scottish schools are directing learners to listen to the podcasts. However, engagement has far surpassed original expectations with a growing number of listeners tuning in from 47 countries across the world.

Through the podcasts, learners have benefitted from input to the curriculum from a range of experts including: leading primatologist, Frans de Waal; David Attenborough’s Principal Cameraman, Doug Allan; Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Sheila Voas; Scotland’s first black professor, Sir Geoff Palmer; round-the-world-cyclist, Mark Beaumont; and author, Jonathan Drori, amongst others.

Paul Downie said: ‘It has been really uplifting seeing so much positive feedback coming in from right across Scotland and beyond. Young people have limited access to experts to enhance their learning. The podcast has provided a platform for some really remarkable people to assist young people in understanding the curriculum and its relevance. I think it can best be summed up in a quote from one of my own students, “Sir, it was much more interesting than just listening to you talk.”’

Ian Menzies, Senior Education Officer for STEM at Education Scotland, adds, ‘Education Scotland’s STEM Grants Programme was designed to release the tremendous creativity, initiative and potential of Scotland’s practitioners and to promote leadership and collaboration. We’re inspired with the approach that Paul has taken and hope others are too. The Podcast Series exemplifies beautifully how adapting our learning and teaching approaches in a time of education recovery can enable us to find new ways to inspire learners.’

The Podcast with Professor Jason Leitch is available here:

The other podcasts in the series are available through the following links:


Apple Podcast

Google Podcast

Podcast Site/Player


For YoungScot COVID guidance on face coverings in Scottish schools visit:

Author: I. Menzies

Senior Education Officer for Sciences, Education Scotland

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