THE GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE
The Select Committee's recommendations and conclusions
are in bold text and numbered as per the "List of Recommendations
The Government's response is in plain text.
This Government places great importance on the value
of science education. Science affects all our lives. We must ensure
that all young people receive a sound basic understanding of science
and are equipped to deal with the social and ethical issues it
raises. For those who go on to study science at higher levels
they must have a firm foundation on which to build. The Government
welcomes this report and it is pleased to be able to report progress
in many of the areas identified by the Select Committee. We recognise
that there is continuing work to create and maintain an innovative,
inspiring and relevant science curriculum for all 14 to 19 year
A response to each of the recommendations and conclusions
is provided below.
The GCSE curriculum
1. It is clear that the major problems lie at
key stage 4. ¼
Many students lose any feelings of enthusiasm that they once had
for science. All too often they study science because they have
to but neither enjoy nor engage with the subject. And they develop
a negative image of science which may last for life.
In July we published our response to Sir Gareth Roberts'
Review of the Supply of Engineers and Scientists as part of our
comprehensive Science and Technology Strategy. The 2002 Spending
Review announced the largest sustained growth in science spending
for a decade - £1.25 billion extra a year by 200506.
We will enhance technology, mathematics and science education
in our schools, colleges and universities. We accept that more
needs to be done to inspire pupils and to make the science curriculum
at 14 16 more exciting and relevant. The science GCSE needs
to encourage a wider range of pupils to continue study in this
area. We agree with the Roberts Review that this will be crucial
in increasing interest in the physical sciences, especially among
girls and ethnic minorities. The Government is piloting a new
Science GCSE and will review it in this context as soon as possible.
The Government is determined to transform secondary
schooling for all pupils across the curriculum. Already, with
the commitment of teachers and pupils, there have been huge improvements
at primary level since 1997 and we have consulted widely on our
plans for learning post 14. We are tackling one of the long neglected
and toughest challenges facing schools; the middle years between
11 and 14 (Key Stage 3). We believe the middle years to be critical,
and without real progress, the gains achieved at primary level
will be dissipated.
The Government's National Strategy for Key Stage
3 is designed to raise standards by strengthening teaching and
learning across the curriculum for all 11 14 year olds.
Science teaching at Key Stage 3 demands versatile teachers and
imaginative approaches to bring it to life to capture pupils'
enthusiasm, develop their interest and give them a thorough understanding
of the subject. The science strand of the strategy was launched
in May 2002 and will be implemented in classrooms from the start
of the autumn term 2002. It will improve the quality of teaching
and learning in classrooms by investing in teachers' continuing
professional development. It will promote the teaching of engaging,
challenging and inspiring lessons and establish high expectations
for pupils. Key Stage 3 is the bridge that will consolidate the
achievements made at primary level, result in further success
at Key Stage 3 itself (we have set a challenging target for 80%
of pupils to reach level 5 and above in science at the end of
Key Stage 3 by 2007), and provide a springboard to further success
across the curriculum at GCSE and beyond.
2. The GCSE science curriculum is overprescriptive.
This puts students off science because they do not have the flexibility
to explore areas which interest them. It kills the interest in
science which may have been kindled at primary school.
The current National Curriculum KS4 Programme of
Study (PoS) for science and the derived GCSE specifications came
into effect for GCSE courses in September 2001. The accreditation
of the awarding body specifications based on this revised PoS
ensured that any repetition of material from earlier key stages
was removed. As a result current GCSE specifications are significantly
reduced in content from their predecessors.
The accreditation process also ensured that awarding
body specifications reflected the broader approach to scientific
enquiry and uptodate examples of science and its applications.
The first cohort of pupils studying the revised KS4
science curriculum will sit their GCSEs in summer 2003. It is
still too early to say whether the changed curriculum will result
in more positive attitudes towards science among 14 16 year
The Green Paper 14 19: extending opportunities,
raising standards proposed that the programme of study be
further reviewed and updated to achieve a core of science relevant
to all learners, and that core be built into a wider range of
3. If students are to be able to see the relevance
of their school science, the curriculum should include recent
The vision for Science Year is: 'To improve, for
ever, the way in which science is viewed, taught and studied so
that young people can engage more creatively with a future that
is increasingly scientific and technological.' Because of its
success in attracting key corporate partners, engaging the science
community and bringing up to date equipment into all schools,
we have recently announced an extension of the Year to July 2003.
We will encourage schools to use the extensive Science Year online
resource bank to enhance teaching in science. Many interesting
classroom resources use recent scientific developments to explain
ideas in science and, as the Committee's report acknowledges,
there are opportunities in the Key Stage 4 curriculum to enliven
teaching using these resources. The pilot GCSE is being designed
around the concept of 'key ideas' to explore modern science and
to explain fundamental scientific principles.
4. Students want the opportunity to discuss controversial
and ethical issues in their science lessons, but this happens
very rarely. Engaging in debate is an approach to teaching that
is unfamiliar to many traditional science teachers; and the way
that science is assessed means that students are not rewarded
for thinking for themselves or for contributing their own ideas.
There are opportunities to discuss controversial
and ethical issues in the science classroom already within the
science curriculum. For example, within the National Strategy
for Key Stage 3, the Framework for teaching science: Years
7, 8 and 9 underpins the training which science teachers have
already received and includes examples of contemporary science
relevant to the Key Stage 3 programme of study. The framework
promotes high quality direct, interactive teaching. This is a
two way process in which all pupils are expected to play an active
part by answering questions, working collaboratively together
during scientific enquiry, contributing points to discussions,
and explaining and demonstrating their methods, conclusions and
solutions. Science teachers will be encouraged to ensure that
all pupils contribute to discussions, ask for explanations, are
listened to carefully and responded to constructively to take
forward their learning, challenge their assumptions and encourage
them to think creatively. Many secondary science teachers cover
the 1116 and post 16 age ranges. We anticipate the preparation,
training and support provided by the Key Stage 3 Strategy will
have a beneficial effect on science teaching for all secondary
We are also analysing the results of the Science
Year Young People's Review of the science curriculum to inform
our thinking on Key Stage 4 development, particularly the new
pilot GCSE. We will draw on the Wellcome Trust's Valuable Lessons
report, which examined teachers' own views on teaching socioscientific
issues. We acknowledge however, that this is unfamiliar territory
for some secondary science teachers. In our response to the Roberts
review, we reiterated our intention to establish a National Centre
for Excellence in Science teaching and we are delighted that the
Wellcome Trust has agreed to enter a partnership to deliver the
Centre. We are jointly developing proposals and anticipate an
announcement on our plans later on in the autumn. However, we
can say at this stage, that we are looking very closely at the
priorities for the Centre and have identified the teaching of
controversial and ethical issues as an important area for development.
5. During GCSE students repeat much of the science
that they have covered in key stage 3. Inevitably they find this
The National Curriculum, including science, was revised
in 2001. New GCSE criteria were produced based on the revised
Programmes of Study, which ensured that any repetition of material
from earlier key stages was removed. Current GCSE specifications
are significantly reduced in content, reflect the broader approach
to scientific enquiry and uptodate examples of science
and its applications and address the issue of repetition at KS3
The Government believes that the science strand of
its Key Stage 3 Strategy will enable teachers to deliver engaging,
challenging and inspiring lessons at the same time as setting
high expectations for pupils' achievement. It believes this achievement
will be consolidated, rather than dissipated at Key Stage 4. In
particular, the Framework for teaching science: Years 7, 8
and 9 defines continuity as the consistency in expectations
and teaching approaches between, as well as within, key stages.
It acknowledges that good continuity extends pupils' experiences
without unhelpful repetition. The framework emphasises that pupils'
progress from early knowledge of scientific ideas, to a deeper
and broader understanding, needs to be planned and sequenced carefully.
Although the Key Stage 4 curriculum is not directly affected by
the National Strategy for Key Stage 3, the current Programmes
of Study, Key Stages 1 4, are designed to encourage progression
through all key stages.
Practical and fieldwork
6. The science curriculum at 14 to 16 aims to
engage all students with science as a preparation for life. At
the same time it aims to inspire and prepare some pupils to continue
with science post16. In practice it does neither of these
Over 80% of pupils currently follow a course leading
to a double award GCSE that provides a secure base for progression
to more advanced study in a range of science subjects. The Green
Paper 14 19: extending opportunites, raising standards
outlines how the QCA will pilot for 2003 an innovative structure
for GCSE science engaging pupils with contemporary scientific
issues and focussing on their role as users and consumers of science.
The Programme of Study will be updated to provide a core of science
relevant to all learners.
7. We endorse the view of the Field Studies Council
that fieldwork should be strongly recommended in all courses.
8. In our view, practical work, including fieldwork,
is a vital part of science education. It helps students to develop
their understanding of science, appreciate that science is based
on evidence and acquire handson skills that are essential
if students are to progress in science. Students should be given
the opportunity to do exciting and varied experimental and investigative
Response to recommendations 7 and 8
The wider issue of practical work is vital for science.
It is essentially an investigative subject, using evidence to
support or disprove theories. We agree practical work needs to
excite and interest students. This is another key area emerging
from our work on the National Centre for Excellence and also one
where the Science Year resource bank will be significant.
At Key Stage 3, the Framework for teaching science:
Years 7, 8 and 9 emphasises that scientific enquiry has a
central place in science because it helps pupils to understand
how scientific ideas are developed, and because the skills and
processes of scientific enquiry are useful in many everyday applications.
The framework stresses that the teaching of scientific enquiry
should use contexts taken from the whole programme of study and
includes a range of domestic, industrial and environmental contexts.
Science teachers will also receive training, advice and guidance
on effective fieldwork.
The 'Growing Schools' initiative is working to encourage
schools to make more use of the 'outdoor classroom' right across
the curriculum, from Early Years through to post 16. The Government
recognises the value of learning away from the classroom in stimulating
interest, developing hands-on skills and having first hand experiences.
In developing Growing Schools, case studies were collected to
determine where in the curriculum learning can, and does take
place outdoors. Science is one of the top subjects studied through,
for example, enhancing school grounds to create study areas, or
by visits to external sites, such as commercial farms and field
9. The way in which coursework is assessed for
GCSE science has little educational value and has turned practical
work into a tedious and dull activity for both students and teachers.
See response to recommendation 28
Use of ICT
10. ICT may have the potential to revolutionise
science teaching but the evidence would suggest that it has not
yet had a real impact in many schools.
11. There needs to be a clearly defined role for
ICT within science teaching if it is to have any real educational
Response to recommendations 10 and 11
We agree that ICT should be used intelligently to
support teaching and learning. The enormous potential of ICT means
that, for the first time, it is becoming possible for each pupil
to learn in a way and at a pace that suits them. Curriculum OnLine
is a key element of our commitment to the development of a thriving
dynamic market for free and commercial digital learning resources
for teachers to use in raising standards in the classroom. It
will offer an online catalogue of certified resources searchable
by Key Stage and topic. These resources will be provided by publishers,
teachers and public sector bodies such as museums and galleries.
ICT, used properly, is a powerful tool, and we have
already cited the use of interactive whiteboards in our memorandum
to the Committee. Used well, ICT in science lessons enables pupils
to gain information that could not be obtained otherwise. (For
example, through data logging, pupils can capture data involving
very fast, or very slow, changes and electronic measuring equipment
removes the tedium of manual measuring and recording. This frees
up time for discussion of the underlying science). The Framework
for teaching science: Years 7, 8 and 9 promotes the use of
ICT in science lessons to enhance individual learning and to enhance
the learning of a whole class.
In April 1999, £230 million (£180 million
in England) of National Lottery money was made available through
the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) programme to train UK serving
teachers and school library staff in the maintained sector in
the effective use of ICT in their subject or library work. The
rationale for undertaking the training is to gain sufficient knowledge
of ICT to use the medium effectively in the classroom. It is designed
to bring the classroom teacher up to same skills level as those
now entering the profession from teacher training institutes who
will have undergone similar training. Although the last date to
register for the training was 31 March 2002, training will continue
to be delivered up until the end of 2003.
The training has been carefully structured to the
individual teacher and is subjectspecific at secondary level.
Primary school teachers have access to more general training,
which concentrates on the core National Curriculum subjects of
English, mathematics and science. The NOF training can only be
delivered by approved training providers who have had to pass
rigorous selection criteria. This criteria includes an understanding
of pedagogical issues as well as technical expertise in using
ICT. Teachers have been encouraged in each case to make use of
personal needs assessment materials, which form an integral part
of the scheme, in order to maximise the effectiveness of the training.
According to the latest figures available for England, over 390,000
teachers have signed up for the training, of whom well over 240,000
have now completed it.
The training is not compulsory, but we recognise
that most teachers would want to undertake it as part of their
own continuing professional development (CPD). All the active
providers - without exception - now meet the expected outcomes
of the NOF programme, and there are a number of exemplary trainers
working with teachers in the primary and secondary sectors and
We have also commissioned the development of further
ICT training materials to be delivered online to support teachers'
continuing professional development, this included materials in
support of the Key Stage 3 Science strategy which have been piloted
in selected schools. It is planned to make the KS3 Science strand
available to teachers from Spring 2003.
The Government recognises that teachers may need
further support to develop their teaching approaches to include
the effective use of ICT in the science classroom, and this, as
well as other innovative approaches, is part of our development
work on the National Centre for Excellence.
12. It would seem that students study science
post16 not because of science at GCSE but despite it.
13. It seems that recent reforms to post16
education have not produced a significant increase in the number
of students studying science.
14. We welcome the increase in the number of girls
studying biology and chemistry to A level that has occurred since
the introduction of compulsory balanced science to GCSE. In particular
we are pleased that girls now make up 50% of A level chemistry
entries. We are, however, concerned that physics remains an unpopular
option with girls.
15. The falling number of boys choosing biology
and chemistry A level is a matter for concern. The reasons for
this need to be investigated further and we recommend that DfES
fund research in this area.
Response to recommendations 12 15
The Further Education Standards Unit will be developing
Teaching & Learning frameworks for major curriculum areas,
and Science is likely to be included, subject to the results of
the consultation process, which is due to complete at the end
of September 2002. The work will include consideration of all
aspects of teaching and learning, including the delivery methods,
the assessment methods, the syllabus content, and teaching materials.
GCSE specifications are aligned to the National Curriculum
programmes of study for Science at Key Stage 4 and must meet the
criteria produced by QCA. The criteria were produced following
wide consultation, including with academics, practitioners and
representatives of industry. Schools can currently offer pupils
aged 1416 one of three options, in conjunction with the
National Curriculum programme of study in science: single award
science, leading to one GCSE; double award science, leading to
the award of two GCSEs; or GCSEs in the three separate sciences
of biology, chemistry and physics.
Schools are free to select the syllabus, or syllabuses
offered by the awarding bodies which they feel best meets the
needs and aptitudes of their pupils, and will engage them in the
The Government agrees that the low take up of physics
by girls, and the falling numbers in biology and chemistry by
boys, are matters for concern. The Curriculum 2000 reforms will
have an impact on boys' and girls' choices of subject combinations,
and we will monitor how the trends develop. Changes to the specifications,
such as a greater contextualisation of scientific problems, should
encourage more students of both sexes to do science subjects.
The key to encouraging more students to take science
subjects post16 is to improve their perceptions of the sciences,
and the usefulness in terms of careers, before they leave compulsory
education. Science Year is a key initiative to encourage young
people to continue their study of science beyond the age of 16.
The Science and Engineering Ambassadors programme is bringing
professionals to schools to enthuse pupils and make science more
The Government is determined to enhance students'
science, maths and technology education, and so encourage students
to continue with these subjects, through measures including:
- improving recruitment and retention of good science
and mathematics teachers;
- establishing a National Centre of Excellence
for Science Teaching; and
- capital investment in schools specifically targeted
on school science laboratories.
The Government has extended the range of specialisms
in the Specialist Schools programme. From September 2002 there
will be 12 schools with the new Maths and Computing specialism
and 24 with a specialism in Science. These schools will help to
spread good practice in science teaching to other schools.
Gender related underachievement, and stereotypical
views on subject/career choices, are being tackled through measures
- the Gender and Achievement section of the DfES'
internet Standards Site provides information on resources and
- the Office of Science and Technology's Promoting
Science, Engineering and Technology for Women Unit has produced
a range of resources for attracting girls to science; and
- we are working with the Equal Opportunities Commission's
'What's Stopping You?' schools campaign to challenge stereotypes
over science careers.
16. The GCSE science curriculum fails to provide
for the differing interests of boys and girls.
We disagree with the Committee's conclusions arising
from their analysis of the differing choices and attitudes between
boys and girls. The Government is working to tackle under achievement
at all stages of education and does not accept that the curriculum
at any level disadvantages either boys or girls. The National
Curriculum Programmes of Study are specifically designed to be
gender free. The views of boys and girls cited by the Committee
suggest that more 'modern ideas' is what they are really asking
for. The examples given reflect their differing interests, which
can be catered for within the existing curriculum, as set out
in our response to recommendations 3 and 4. However, in view of
the Committee's concern in this area, we will appraise the need
for gender issues to be further addressed in the design of the
new science GCSE pilot. We also think that Science and Engineering
Ambassadors will have an important effect on the career aspirations
of both boys and girls. It is this that lies at the heart of the
Committee's recommendation and we endorse the Roberts review finding
that more young people of both sexes need to aspire to careers
in science, technology, mathematics and engineering
17. We welcome the introduction of pupil level
ethnic monitoring by DfES. We trust that the data will show the
performance of different ethnic groups in science subjects and
recommend that this information will be made public as part of
DfES's annual statistics publications.
18. It would appear that some of the usual assumptions
about the relative participation of men and women in science and
engineering are simply not true in respect of ethnic minority
Response to recommendations 17 and 18
The introduction of the Pupil Level Annual Schools
Census (PLASC), and the creation of a National Pupil Database
combining PLASC data with pupils' Key Stage and examination results
will enable much more systematic analysis of how levels of achievement
(overall and in specific subjects) vary by ethnicity and other
The Department will certainly be reviewing and extending
its statistical publications in the light of these new data, and
analyses by ethnic group are likely to feature prominently. However
the new analyses need to be based on a careful examination of
the data taking account of potential interactions between ethnic
group and other attributes (such as gender, language, low income
and special educational needs). As the Committee points out, some
common assumptions may prove to be misconceived, and it will be
important therefore not to perpetuate these assumptions by presenting
ethnicity analyses in a simplistic onedimensional way.
Data from the National Pupil Database will also be
made available for bona fide educational research, much of which
we would expect to include ethnic monitoring as an element.
19. Students may be dissuaded from studying science
at A level if they think it will be harder work than other subjects
and more difficult to achieve a high level grade.
Response to recommendations 19 and 51
The current A level grading system is driven by reference
to criteria based on the core knowledge, skills and understanding
which candidates must demonstrate in a subject in order to achieve
a particular grade. The appropriate grade standards for each subject
are determined through consultation with the individual subject
communities. When QCA devised the subject criteria to which the
most recent A level specifications conform, they relied heavily
on advice from subject specialists from schools and higher education.
The published grade descriptions of performance in each subject
at grades A and E were likewise written in consultation with subject
specialists, and the awarding bodies depend on the subject expertise
of their senior examiners when writing specifications and question
papers and marking and grading examinations. As regulator, QCA
undertake a range of monitoring activities to make sure that awarding
bodies comply with the regulatory criteria and codes of practice,
to ensure quality, rigour and consistency of standards.
A normreferenced system, where a set proportion
of students receive each grade, was used prior to 1987. With this
system the statistics might appear more "balanced",
but they are less helpful in indicating the standard of attainment
that had been reached.
As the Roberts review recognised, QCA gives considerable
attention to the issue of intersubject comparability, and
will continue to monitor awarding body performance in this area.
QCA are currently devising an additional programme of work in
response to the recommendations of the independent panel report
on maintaining A level standards. The report recommended that
QCA addresses the area of intersubject difficulty by focusing
on the comparability of examination demand and the standards of
performance expected of students in different subjects.
QCA recently piloted methodologies for analysing
intersubject comparability that allow for qualitative measures.
So far, the outcomes have been promising in terms of validating
the approach; more extensive conclusions will be available at
a later date. QCA will be conducting a qualitative analysis of
the comparability of examination demand and candidate performance
between History and Geography at GCSE, AS and A level. The first
stage of this work is due to start in Autumn 2002.
20. The mathematical requirements, or students'
perceptions of the mathematical requirements, of A level sciences
puts students off choosing to study these subjects. This particularly
applies to physics.
See response to recommendation 50.
21. Students' awareness of scientific careers
and the value of transferable skills gained through science would
appear to be limited.
See response to recommendation 55
22. The vocational options in science are not
yet attracting students. More should be done to provide attractive
vocational courses and to ensure that students are well aware
of the potential value of the qualifications for a range of future
There is a substantial amount of work currently in
progress to support the Government's aim of establishing greater
esteem for vocational qualifications.
The development of the National Qualifications Framework
ensures the comparability of standards for qualifications at all
Guidance and exemplification of teaching and learning
about the world of work is being developed, to illustrate the
role, relevance and importance of vocational qualifications for
pupils up to year 9.
The new Applied Science GCSE will be introduced in
September 2002. This new GCSE will be of the same standard and
intellectual rigour as existing GCSEs, but with a strong vocational
focus. Early informal indications are that this new qualification
will prove popular in schools.
QCA are undertaking further work with the awarding
bodies to revise the AVCE in science into the AS/A2 format.
23. Where universities place restrictive demands
on applicants, specifying grades in three A level subjects, students
are unlikely to place value on broadening their education.
Institutions delivering higher education will assess
whether a candidate is suitable for entry to a course. Although
A levels remain vital qualifications and an important way of assessing
university access, universities have always sought to consider
other measures of potential including the personal statement of
the applicant themselves. However, it is for each university to
decide its own approach, we are not empowered to direct universities
in admissions procedures as they are autonomous bodies and are
responsible for their own decision making processes.
See also response to recommendation 54.
24. We are amazed that the awarding bodies take
so little responsibility for finding solutions to problems with
GCSE science that they themselves have caused. We take little
comfort from their ability to identify these problems when they
show little initiative in addressing them. Government should make
plain to the awarding bodies that the future accreditation of
their science GCSE courses depends on them developing imaginative
alternative ways of assessing science at GCSE. Any changes to
the National Curriculum will have limited impact on the way science
is taught in schools if the assessment is not changed too.
25. QCA's lack of direction has allowed assessment
of GCSE science to stagnate. QCA should now set out clearly what
they expect of awarding bodies offering science GCSEs and should
intervene where these criteria are not met.
26. QCA should require awarding bodies to introduce
a wider range of questions to GCSE science exams. These should
enable issues raised by contemporary science to be used as the
focus for questions; allow flexibility for students in their answers;
and, most importantly, they should test a wider range of skills
than the mere recall of facts.
Response to recommendations 24 26
There are significant, and necessary, constraints
on introducing rapid changes to the system. The evidence supplied
by QCA summarised the requirements of an assessment system: assessment
arrangements must be fit for purpose and outcomes need to be valid,
reliable and manageable if they are to support learning programmes.
Confidence in assessment and qualifications systems
relies heavily on the maintenance of standards. This is a major
aspect of QCA's work. The Authority's science team contributes
to the monitoring of national curriculum assessment arrangements
and all accredited science qualifications to help safeguard validity,
reliability, comparability of standards and fairness across the
QCA's submission to the committee also referred to
evidence from regular scrutiny and monitoring programmes, which
have highlighted a number of issues. These include: the possible
distortion of learning programmes by an overconcentration
on the external assessment; the implications for validity, manageability
and reliability of internal assessment; the amount of time required
for assessment; and, examination timetabling problems, notably
for practical assessments in science.
Current developments are designed to address these
issues, for example, in the changes introduced in September 2001
there is an increase in the range of questioning. (This is reported
favourably in para 75 of the report). QCA's monitoring programme
will ensure that these revised criteria are met by the awarding
bodies (recommendation 26).
It is acknowledged that this is a relatively small
change, which reflected the overriding need at that time, to ensure
that the system remained robust and manageable. However, further
changes are being introduced in September 2002 (GCSE Applied Science)
and September 2003 (Pilot GCSE sciences).
27. We think that it remains important to assess
practical skills at GCSE through coursework. But there is no point
in continuing with coursework arrangements that have little educational
28. Coursework in science at GCSE needs a radical
rethink. This is the responsibility of the awarding bodies but
it is obvious that they are going to need significant encouragement
from QCA. QCA should evaluate the coursework submitted in 2003,
which will be the first to be submitted under the recently modified
arrangements. If there is no significant change in the approach
to investigative work, they should enter into immediate discussions
with teachers and awarding bodies about how coursework could be
changed to encourage more stimulating and engaging practical work
in schools. In addition, we would like to see project work available
to teachers as an option for GCSE coursework. This may mean reducing
QCA's requirement that 20% of GCSE assessment be based on investigative
skills measured through coursework.
Response to recommendations 9, 27 and 28
We agree with the report in its recognition that
the assessment of practical and associated skills, and the understanding
of investigative science in its broadest sense, is an essential
component of GCSE science, which must not be marginalized.
Coursework is crucial to assessing this aspect of
science; it cannot be done satisfactorily through external examinations
Current requirements leave the choice of content
for coursework to the teachers and students, so it is possible
to engage in the kind of openended investigations quoted
with approval in paragraph 78. Despite this, the report has confirmed
QCA's monitoring findings - that such opportunities are rarely
taken up as the majority of teachers usually rely on a small number
of activities, which they repeat with all GCSE classes.
The report acknowledges that it is too early to see
if recent changes to the coursework requirements will make a difference,
and recommends that QCA take action following the completion of
the first GCSE courses in summer 2003. QCA is already planning
a programme to review current coursework practice, with the awarding
bodies, particularly aimed at disseminating good practice, for
example in the integration of the work into the normal teaching
of the subject, the management of the teaching of component skills
of investigating and in the choice of a wider range of topics
In addition, several other developments, designed
to address these issues, are planned. The GCSE Applied Science
takes a very different approach to coursework assessment as it
is embedded throughout the course.
The pilot GCSE science will be trying out a range
of different criteria for coursework assessment, in its different
strands. For example, the core course will assess topical issues
through written project work, whilst the additional applied course
will ask for accounts of the applications of science in specific
local contexts, as well as assessing practical procedures. This
work is intended to find out ways of ensuring that coursework
provides both valid assessment and a worthwhile learning experiences.
The problems to be solved are not trivial. Any nationally
approved assessment system has to be robust enough to demonstrate
that standards are upheld in the fair awarding of grades.
Science for citizens and for scientists
29. We are convinced that science is essential
for progression and for personal development and welcome DfES's
decision to keep science as a compulsory element of the curriculum
from ages 14 to 16.
We welcome the committee's agreement that science
should remain a compulsory element of the Key Stage 4 curriculum.
The Green Paper, 14 19: extending opportunities, raising
standards noted the importance of science for the economy
and for careers in many areas which increasingly need an underpinning
of science. It recognised the need to ensure that science GCSE
provides a range of choices relevant to all abilities and aptitudes.
30. The challenge at 14 to16 is to provide a secure
foundation for those moving on to further scientific study post16
and to give an understanding of science to those who do not; that
is, to meet the needs of future scientists and of citizens.
See response to recommendation 39.
31. Having taken the decision to keep science
compulsory to age 16, DfES should include science in the requirements
for any matriculation diploma.
The Matriculation Diploma proposed a threshold of
level 2 attainment in literacy, numeracy and ICT, because we think
it important for as many young people as possible to reach this
level. For science, we are seeking to ensure that all young people
include this subject as part of their programmes of study until
the end of Key Stage 4. However, we did not think that young people
should be required to reach level 2 in science in order to gain
Ministers are carefully considering the views expressed
about the Diploma proposal during the consultation period.
32. What is important is not that citizens should
be able to remember and recall solely a large body of scientific
facts, but that they should understand how science works and how
it is based on the analysis and interpretation of evidence. Crucially,
citizens should be able to use their understanding of science,
so that science can help rather than scare them.
See response to recommendation 39.
33. On balance we believe that the advantages
of increasing the priority given to the teaching of skills associated
with scientific literacy at GCSE far outweigh the disadvantages.
34. It is important that students are able to
follow GCSE courses that fully prepare them to continue with the
academic study of science at A level.
35. We commend QCA for taking the initiative in
piloting a new approach to GCSE science which aims to reconcile
the need to prepare some students for further study and to give
all students the skills of scientific literacy.
Response to recommendations 3335
QCA's pilot GCSE, commended in the report for its
new approach to GCSE science, will be introduced in September
2003. The lessons learnt from the evaluation of the pilot will
be put into practice across all existing science GCSEs, as and
when appropriate, furthering the aims for students aged 14
19 detailed in the recent Green Paper 14 19: extending
opportunities, raising standards. The pilot will provide useful
evidence for other future GCSE developments, including possible
A new curriculum
36. We support the balanced science approach and
believe that it should continue to apply for all students. However,
within this, there needs to be flexibility and scope for choice
by individual students to allow them to explore areas of interest.
37. All students should continue to spend 20%
of their time studying science. At the same time, the National
Curriculum at key stage 4 must be restructured to allow the development
of a range of different science GCSE courses. This should enable
students to choose courses that complement their abilities and
interests in science. All GCSE courses should prepare students
to feel confident with the science that they are likely to encounter
in everyday life and provide a route to science post16,
either through traditional A levels or through vocational qualifications.
38. QCA should work together with stakeholders,
including learned societies, teachers and students, to agree a
National Curriculum that defines a minimum core of science that
all students need to be taught at 14 to 16. This should include
some of the key ideas in science across biology, chemistry and
physics and a range of skills and understanding associated with
scientific literacy. All qualifications in science offered at
key stage 4 should then fulfil these revised National Curriculum
39. A new science curriculum will need to define
more explicitly the skills and knowledge associated with scientific
Response to recommendations 30, 32, 36
39 and 43
We welcome the Committee's support for balanced science
in the National Curriculum. Our recent consultation on 14
19 education explored the options for more flexibility and choice
post 14, and offering different learning pathways to suit the
needs and aspirations of individuals. We are already putting in
place new qualifications, for example, the GCSE in Applied Science.
In our development of the new pilot science GCSE we shall be focusing
strongly on the options this approach will open up post 16, the
need for the qualification to offer flexible pathways, both vocational
and academic, to lay a secure base for further scientific study
for those who choose to do it and to provide all young people
with a sound grounding for adult life and their role as citizens.
Time for Science
The Government accepts that schools need to provide
sufficient time within the timetable to allow the study of all
subjects, including science, within a broad and balanced curriculum.
However, there is no minimum time prescribed for the teaching
of any subject at any key stage, although there is timetabling
guidance available for schools.
For science, the statutory requirement is the single
award programme of study. However we expect that double science
or the three separate sciences will continue to be taken by the
great majority of pupils. It is also important to note that within
existing National Curriculum requirements, science can be disapplied
altogether for students undertaking an extended workrelated
programme. For the majority of pupils however, science will continue
to need a significant portion of curriculum time.
Reviewing the science curriculum
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA)
is to advise the Government on restructuring the curriculum at
Key Stage 4 as part of the 14 19 reforms, including science.
QCA is already undertaking a review of science, Science for the
21st Century, begun in 2000 as a follow on from the review of
the whole curriculum. The new pilot GCSE has come from this review.
We will ensure, both through the development of the new pilot
and through the wider reforms, that science is developed to offer
wider opportunities for young people. As we set out in our 14
19 consultation, we will carefully consider reducing the
content of the science curriculum at Key Stage 4 to provide a
smaller compulsory core relevant to all learners. The Government
agrees that scientific literacy, sometimes also referred to as
'science for citizenship' is an important area for development.
To teach Citizenship well, we need to engage pupils
in appreciating how advances in science can affect them as individuals,
and as part of a community. They will need to understand the types
of question that science can answer and the ones it cannot. As
citizens they will need to reach their own views about the ethical,
political and economic questions that science cannot answer.
The schemes of work for secondary schools include
example units within which schools teach citizenship through science
and vice versa. The structure and activities suggested are designed
so that they might be applied to any contemporary sciencerelated
issue, typically on a national scale. As an example, immunisation
is used throughout the unit. Other issues, e.g. food safety, organ
donation and transplants, forensic science, could provide an alternative
focus. The emphasis is for pupils to consider a range of points
of view; to explore the conflicting rights and responsibilities
involved, such as those of individuals and the interests of the
wider public. They learn that views may conflict and that expert
opinion cannot always arbitrate between them.
40. Incorporating scientific literacy in the National
Curriculum will not, on its own, be enough. If this aspect of
the curriculum is to receive the attention that it deserves it
must be given a higher priority in assessment.
41.Research and development needs to be undertaken
to develop ways of assessing the skills associated with scientific
literacy. This should be seen as an urgent priority and funded
Response to recommendations 40 and 41
The report recognises the possible problems associated
with this in paragraph 88. As the report notes in paragraphs 101
and 102, there has been an increase in the extent of the assessment
of aspects of 'Scientific literacy' in the current specifications,
following the 2000 revision of the science National Curriculum.
QCA's monitoring shows that many teachers are not finding it easy
to implement and that they need professional development to support
them (this is consistent with the Wellcome Trust report Valuable
Lessons). QCA already has a longterm research programme
into developing assessment methods and approaches generally (both
formative and summative). As part of the curriculum development
project 'Keeping science into step with the changing world of
the 21st century', QCA has commissioned work on the nature and
the assessment of 'scientific literacy'. The findings from this
research have already informed developments at KS2 and 3 and are
feeding into the development of the pilot science GCSE. (The implications
of this, particularly at GCSE, are substantial - involving coursework
issues discussed earlier.)
Support for teachers
42. If science teachers are to be asked to teach
a different curriculum at key stage 4, they will need time, resources
and training. The Government must ensure that all three of these
are available to teachers before implementing any major changes
in science at key stage 4.
We recognise the implications for teachers of curriculum
change and the need for time, resources and training.
The Government has demonstrated already its commitment
to raising standards in the middle years by supporting expenditure
of around £500 million on Key Stage 3 over three years to
200304. This covers teachers access to training programmes,
consultancy support and money for schools to focus on pupils who
need extra support. The National Centre for Excellence in Science
Teaching will offer training for all teachers of science, primary
as well as secondary. Provision will be designed to meet national
priority needs in science education, as well as being sufficiently
flexible to respond to those of a more regional/local nature.
Changes to the curriculum would be high among national CPD priorities
for science teachers.
43. QCA should work together with the awarding
bodies to develop a range of courses in science at key stage 4
that reflect the diverse interests and motivations of students.
See response to recommendation 39.
44. The evidence from A level courses that focus
on presenting science in contemporary and relevant contexts suggests
that it is possible to attract girls to study physics and for
them to enjoy the experience. This has lessons for the study of
physics at 14 to 16. QCA should explore how the curriculum and
assessment at key stage 4 could be adapted to reflect the positive
features seen in the new physics A level courses.
The new science GCSE, which QCA has commissioned
OCR to develop, utilises many of the approaches employed successfully
by A level courses to attract girls to study the physical sciences.
This includes greater emphasis on the human implications of the
science content and an increased range of coursework tasks in
the assessment framework.
45. We recommend that the Government consider
how best to ensure the future of the Ishango afterschool
Science Clubs, if necessary by continued central government funding.
The DfES recognises the positive contribution that
out of school hours educational initiatives can make to the achievement
and aspirations of ethnic minority pupils. Ishango Science Clubs
are part of an estimated 2,000 or more community based organisations
offering a range of after school educational support to pupils
from minority ethnic communities. These initiatives are often
called supplementary schools or Saturday schools.
Through the Extended Schools and Study Support programme
the Department is encouraging out of school hours activities and
greater use of mainstream schools as a community resource. As
part of a wider strategy to raise the educational attainment of
ethnic minority pupils, Ministers are considering how best to
promote greater partnership working between mainstream provision
and the great variety of community inspired education initiatives
such as the Ishango Science Clubs.
46. The AfricanCaribbean Network for Science
& Technology recommends that the Government commission further
research on race equality in science, maths and technology and
explore ways of targeting resources on underachieving groups.
It calls for science teaching materials to be developed to encourage
multicultural and antiracist teaching; and for teacher
training and continuous professional development for science teachers
to include these elements. We endorse these recommendations.
At Key Stage 3, the Framework for teaching science:
Years 7, 8 and 9 includes a dedicated chapter on "Inclusion
and differentiation". This chapter covers the needs of pupils
who might need extra help in science lessons: those who need help
with English (including those learning English as an additional
language); those with special educational needs; disabilities;
emotional and behavioural difficulties; as well as able pupils
and those who are gifted and talented.
Through the Key Stage 3 Strategy, support has been
provided for mentoring underachieving pupils in science
in year 8, and supporting borderline pupils in achieving level
5 or above in the tests in year 9 through the booster programme.
Generic materials are also being developed through the Key Stage
3 Strategy, which focus on teaching and learning for specific
groups, including those from ethnic minorities.
In our response to the Roberts review we acknowledged
the importance of encouraging ethnic minority pupils to achieve
more and to participate more widely in science. We are committed
to working with key partners, such as the Commission for Racial
Equality and representatives from community groups - to develop
a coherent strategy for raising the achievement of ethnic minority
pupils. The Roberts review specifically recommended the Government
improve the data available on the achievement of ethnic minority
groups in science and engineering and we have accepted this recommendation.
One of the aims of Science Year has been to improve
the perception of science among 10 19 year olds, with particular
emphasis on girls and ethnic groups. Poster campaigns such as
"Faces of Modern Science", have used role models from
different backgrounds in science related careers, to show how
studying science can lead to exciting and lucrative careers for
all students regardless of their background. Science Year is also
working with Black Parents in Education to create a website celebrating
the achievements of black scientists past and present. The extension
of Science Year will place additional emphasis on bridging the
attainment gaps between different ethnic minority groups.
The continuing expansion of the Science and Engineering
Ambassadors scheme also has great potential to influence young
people from ethnic minority groups through the recruitment of
role models from those groups to work with young people in schools.
Through the National Centre of Excellence in Science
Teaching, we will encourage teachers to adapt their teaching approaches
to meet the needs of all pupils, including those from ethnic minority
groups, young people of both sexes and those with special needs.
47. We welcome the establishment of science and
engineering specialist schools as a recognition that Technology
Colleges, although numerous, are not representing the breadth
of science and technology education. The Government should set
a target for the number of science and engineering specialist
schools within the overall target of 1,500 specialist schools
We do not want to prescribe a uniform pattern of
specialist provision. As part of the Government's wider strategy
for sport in schools, we have a target for the number of Sports
Colleges. This is linked to the School Sport Coordinator
programme and to the promise set out in the White Paper Schools
achieving success, of an entitlement of two hours of high quality
PE and sport each week in and out of school for all children.
We also have a target for Language Colleges in connection with
the developing national languages strategy. Beyond that, we do
not at present see the need for firm targets in the other specialist
areas. Our aim is to help secondary schools and local education
authorities to develop a strategic pattern of specialist provision
in order to best meet local needs and maximise the benefits of
the Specialist Schools Programme for local communities.
48. We urge scientific bodies to consider how
they can encourage and support schools to apply for science specialist
We would welcome the involvement of scientific bodies
in supporting schools interested in applying for designation as
49. In providing A level science courses it is
difficult to strike a balance between attracting a broad range
of students and providing the content needed for transition to
sciencebased courses at university. The onus should be on
universities to adapt to the changing nature of their intake.
The Roberts Review recommends that the Government fund universities
to use new "entry support courses" and elearning
programmes to bridge gaps between A levels and degree courses.
We endorse this recommendation.
The Government agrees with the Committee's analysis
- responsibility for designing and delivering degree courses lies
with higher education institutions, and it is ultimately for individual
institutions to make sure that they teach students what they need
to know in order to progress in science, engineering and mathematics
courses. However, on some courses students can have quite a range
of previous experience in maths and science - some with relevant
A levels, some with access course experience, some with GCSE level
maths. Many nontraditional students in particular need extra
support in technical skills. Institutions already put a good deal
of effort into supporting new students, bringing them up to speed,
and providing ongoing specialist support with important
In response to the Roberts Review recommendation,
the Government has announced that it will work with the HE sector
to pilot and evaluate different approaches to bridging the gap
between students' prior knowledge and the requirements of higher
education study, recognising that Mathematics skills can be a
particular issue. The Government is also launching a specific
inquiry into post14 mathematics.
50. On balance we are persuaded that the mathematical
demands of school science at A level are appropriate. Where students
need support with their maths, additional maths courses are available
for schools to offer. Any increase in the maths content of A level
science courses would risk alienating students further. Where
universities require greater mathematical skills, they should
take action to teach these themselves.
Response to recommendations 20 and 50
The Government agrees that there is a fine balance
to be struck in the mathematical content of science subjects -
between making A level science subjects too mathematical and so
deterring some students, and not including enough maths to be
able to cover the subject properly and lay appropriate foundations
for HE. Physics is the most mathematical of the sciences and these
subjects have long enjoyed a close relationship.
Schools need to make sure they provide adequate mathematics
provision to support the teaching of sciences, such as the weekly
mathematics lessons described by Claire Dawe at Redland High School
in Bristol. The Curriculum 2000 reforms have broadened the range
of mathematics qualifications available. In addition to A level
maths, students can now take maths just up to AS level, the new
AS in Use of Mathematics, or Free Standing Mathematical Units.
These provide students with opportunities to take maths courses
that best meet their individual needs.
It is also the responsibility of higher education
institutions to provide appropriate support to ensure all their
students can develop the mathematical skills require for their
courses (see comments in response to recommendation 49).
51. The Government should ask QCA and the awarding
bodies to explore how it would be possible to address the imbalance
in grading across A level subjects.
See response to recommendation 19.
52. FE colleges offer a range of sciencebased
vocational courses linked to specific careers. These give students
the opportunity to engage with science and achieve where they
may previously have struggled.
FE colleges and their vocational courses have an
important contribution to make. In the academic year 2000/2001
1.9 million science courses were being studied in FE institutions.
53. For those students who do not achieve Grade
C in GCSE science, there need to be intermediate qualifications
available that will allow them to move on to AS and A level.
Ministers have listened carefully to the representations
from colleges. They have decided to retain the 6 unit Intermediate
GNVQs until QCA can establish that there are suitable alternative
vocational options available in each of the subject titles.
QCA has been asked to publicise this decision and
respond to any detailed enquiries about the work to identify or
develop future provision.
Science for all
54. In evaluating the new AS and A level structure,
the Government should look closely at whether the changes have
successfully broadened the curriculum studied by post16
students. If this is not the case, Government should consider
the introduction of a compulsory post16 curriculum, which
would include science as one of its core subjects.
Early monitoring and research have suggested that
while students are generally taking larger programmes, they tend
to take complementary rather than contrasting subjects. Schools
and colleges encourage students to consider broad programmes and
provide a curriculum structure to facilitate them, but few insist
on specified breadth.
The DfES and QCA will be evaluating the extent to
which the changes to advanced level qualifications have achieved
their stated aims, including increasing the breadth of student
55. Improving the experience of science at 14
to 16 in the ways that we suggest in this report should motivate
students to consider studying science post16. They should
be provided with proper careers advice. Government should ensure
that the careers service improves the quality of advice offered
to school students about scientific careers and the breadth of
career possibilities open to those with qualifications in science.
The Connexions Service offers impartial advice and
guidance on learning and career options to all young people aged
1319 in England. Its starting point is the interests and
aspirations of the individual young person and it does not seek
to actively promote any one career/occupational sector over another.
However, where young people express an interest in sciencerelated
further learning or careers, Connexions Personal Advisers will
offer guidance and support as necessary. This is supported through
a range of mechanisms:
- The Connexions Service National Unit (CSNU) produces
a range of publications aimed at practitioners working within
the Connexions Service and young people and their parents. For
example, for the former, Occupations, which is updated
annually, provides information for Connexions Pas on a wide range
of sciencerelated occupations. There is also a series of
Working In publications for young people/parents, one of
which is Working in Science. These are updated periodically,
on a rolling programme, in liaison with the relevant NTO/SSC.
- Most Connexions partnerships have dedicated "information
managers" who are responsible for collecting and disseminating
Labour Market Information to practitioners. This will include
information on developments within the sciencerelated occupations/sectors.
- CSNU has worked closely with DTI to support initiatives
such as Science Year through, for example, articles in a variety
of Connexions newsletters/publications.
- Connexions also works more generally with all
young people to raise their aspirations and to ensure that the
choices they make in Key Stage 4 and post16 learning will
support progression into sciencerelated careers, where this
is what individual young people aspire to.
The Roberts review also raised a similar point and,
as recommended by the review, the Government is establishing a
team that can help Connexions personal advisers and teachers in
offering careers advice. In doing so, the Government will draw
upon the expertise of those in the scientific, engineering, technological
and mathematical communities. The Government will consult with
the Sector Skills Councils and Connexions Service National Unit
to establish whether this team is best based within the Connexions
service or in the relevant Sector Skills Councils but closely
linked to the Connexions Service.
56. We welcome the motivation behind the Government's
Science and Engineering Ambassadors initiative and look forward
to seeing an evaluation of how effectively it is implemented and
what impact it has.
We welcome the Committee's support for Science and
Engineering Ambassadors. SETNET, which manages the scheme on behalf
of the Department for Trade and Industry and the Department for
Education and Skills, has recently appointed a national Ambassadors
manager, the SETPoints who deliver the scheme locally are working
to sign up companies in their areas and there are also eleven
large companies signed up UK wide. We accept Ambassadors should
be evaluated and, an evaluation of SETNET, which includes Ambassadors,
is in its early stages. In our response to the Roberts review,
we have also said that we will continue to ensure that SETNET
has clear measures of success and that the network of SETPoints
will be evaluated.
57. A benefit of requiring science to be taught
using contemporary contexts is that it would encourage more science
teachers to make use of local science based employers to support
The development of coursework requiring projects
focussing on modern applications of science is a useful way of
creating more links between schools and local businesses.
58. Good laboratory and prep room facilities are
important because they enable high quality practical work to be
carried out in a pleasant environment, motivating and inspiring
staff and students alike.
59. It is appalling that the laboratories in one
quarter of England's secondary schools are in such poor state
that the quality of teaching is being directly affected.
Response to recommendations 58 and 59
The Government agrees that good laboratory and prep
room facilities are important to enable high quality practical
work to be carried out. It is not acceptable for the quality of
teaching to be affected by the poor state of school laboratories.
It has increased capital investment in schools, including in school
laboratories, from £683 million in 199697 to over £3.5
billion in 200304, and this will rise further by 200506.
In particular, the government allocated £60 million to local
education authorities to fund improvement in laboratory provision
in 200001 and 200102, to highlight the need and to
address the worst of the backlog. Most recently, it has put improvement
to science and technology facilities as a key priority for local
authorities in prioritising their school investment. The current
appraisal of local authority Asset Management Plans includes close
scrutiny of their plans for improvements to school science laboratories.
60. We welcome the £60 million committed
to laboratory refurbishment by DfES; this should have made a significant
impact. We are very surprised that DfES has not evaluated what
impact this substantial sum of public money has had on those schools
most in need.
The bulk of capital funding for school buildings
is now allocated by formulae with needs related elements. This
increases local decisionmaking and avoids the heavy bureaucracy
inherent in bidding processes. To reduce the bureaucratic burden
further, DfES has not required details of local investment decisions.
The £60 million for laboratory refurbishment was ringfenced
for that purpose, and guidance emphasised that the investment
was for schools with the most serious suitability shortcomings
in their science accommodation. Investment decisions were taken
locally by education authorities and schools as to where the greatest
benefits would be. However, we also appraise the local delivery
of improvements to school buildings, including laboratories, through
the Asset Management Plan process. Asset Management Plan data
collection in the first part of 200304 will include assessments
of the needs of science teaching spaces.
61. We recommend that, over the next three years,
the Government ring fence a minimum of £120 million to bring
all school laboratories and prep rooms up to at least adequate
standard. This money should be allocated direct to LEAs so that
it can be targeted at those schools most in need.
The Government aims to reduce the amount of funding
that is ringfenced. Small ringfenced pots are particularly
bureaucratic to administer, and can have perverse consequences
in restricting investment in needs only to the amount of funding
allocated. From 200304 until 200506, the Government
will further increase the capital available for investment in
school buildings. As far as possible, this funding will be delivered
to schools and local education authorities by formula with threeyear
certainty. Asset Management Plans are now established so that
authorities can prioritise the investment needs of all their schools
in an open and consultative process that takes account of local
circumstances and government priorities. Through the criteria
it sets, and the monitoring of Asset Management Plans, the government
will continue to ensure that Local Education Authorities prioritise
improving science provision in their schools.
In addition to the capital funding the Government
allocates to local authorities, it also gives all maintained schools
their own capital money. In 200304, a typical secondary
school will receive New Deal for Schools Devolved formula capital
of over £70,000. This funding can be rolled over for up to
three years and every secondary school now receives direct capital
funding which enables it to address the needs of its science accommodation.
62. DfES should ensure that schools are properly
informed of the importance and costs of maintaining expenditure
on science equipment.
We are working with key partners, including Science
Year, to explore how the whole issue of laboratories and equipment
fit for the 21st century can be highlighted and guidance given
to schools. The Department already produces extensive technical
guidance on the design of school buildings including science laboratories.
We have also included science and design and technology laboratories
as priorities in this year's capital expenditure guidance to Local
Education Authorities. However, we think more could be done to
support schools to design and manage laboratories and to purchase
and maintain equipment. With new developments in science, different
equipment might be needed. Increased use of ICT and different
approaches to teaching may both require a new look for laboratories,
for example, including bigger discussion and group working areas.
We will be working with our partners to develop interactive, flexible
and userfriendly resources for schools to help in assessing
their needs and procuring the accommodation and equipment necessary
to teach science in the classroom of the future.
63. We expect to see action taken within the next
year to address the appalling pay and conditions of science technicians
and to create a career structure that will attract skilled and
dedicated people to work as technicians.
64. It is essential that technicians have opportunities
for professional development. This will mean not only making appropriate
courses available but also ensuring that technicians have the
time and funding to be able to participate.
See response to recommendation 66.
65. There is a widely held belief that practical
work in schools is now constrained by health and safety regulations.
This is simply not true.
We welcome the Committee's emphasis on the lack of
constraints on practical work in schools due to health and safety
regulations and agree that the practice of risk assessments is
likely to enable a wider range of experimental work to be carried
66. The longerterm aim should be to reduce
secondary school practical classes to no more than 20 students.
Response to recommendations 63, 64 and 66
The Government believes that the best way of addressing
the concerns underlying the Select Committee's recommendation
is to enable teachers of secondary science to have more support
from other trained and appropriately checked adults. The White
Paper: Schools: Achieving Success, published in September
2001, recognised many teachers felt they had inadequate time in
the normal working day to prepare lessons, review pupil progress
or undertake professional development. That paper fed into Professionalism
and Trust and set out the Government's vision for an education
system in which learning is supported by a wider mix of well trained
staff undertaking a range of duties and tasks, together with more
effective use of ICT. While additional resources will be made
available to schools for restructuring and to employ more support
staff, the Government believes their precise deployment should
be a matter for head teachers who are in the best position to
assess needs at individual school level.
Our proposals to make greater use of support staff
as direct assistants for teachers is particularly relevant to
science technicians who could (and in some cases already do) assist
with practical work. We will be formally consulting on our proposals
for enhancing the roles of support staff in the autumn. We will
invite comments on a range of proposals including enhanced roles
and responsibilities for support staff, training and development,
implications for school management and the need for guidance for
schools and local education authorities. Links between potential
roles and the pay of support staff, will, however, remain a matter
for local determination.
We welcome the Royal Society/Association of Science
Education report on science technicians and we are working with
them to look at the recommendations in the report. We are exploring
a career structure for technicians that links job descriptions,
vocational qualifications and professional development. In our
consultation on the National Centre for Excellence in Science
Teaching, we proposed that Continuing Professional Development
for science technicians should be included in its remit. This
proposal was strongly endorsed by respondents and science technicians
will have specific provision offered by the national centre and
its regional arms. The Engineering Technology Board is considering
how it can contribute in this area.
We envisage that Ambassadors will also assist in
practical science classes, given appropriate checks, suitable
personal skills, professional scientific expertise and appropriate
coaching. An additional trained adult in the science laboratory
would do much to allay health and safety concerns and give more
time for the teacher to concentrate on teaching.