Notes of a meeting held between Bolton
Science Teachers and Technicians and Dr Brian lddon, MP for Bolton
South East, on 3 May 2002
||Director of Education and Arts|
|Mr. Dave Chivers||Turton High School (Head of Science)
|Carole Deaville||Turton High School (Senior Lab Technician)
|Mr Dave Hayes||Mount St Joseph RC High School, Norwich (Head of Science)
|Mr Robin Heap||Thornleigh College
|Mrs Doreen Jolly||Rivington and Blackrod High School
|Libby Mooney||Bolton MBC Key Stage 3 Advisor
|Mr Chris Proffits||Mount St Joseph RC High School (Head of Science)
14-16 YEAR OLDS
The curriculum content is about right but scientific investigation
takes up too much time, to the detriment of practical work. Tutors
feel that they can't afford to drop any topics from the curriculum
but that they have too little time to teach what is required.
It is hoped that the new KS3 strategy will make this easier.
Geology is taught in both Geography and Chemistry, which results
in some overlap and students getting bored. However, it is important
to note that not all students study Geography and so may miss
out on vital information to complete the Geology tuition.
Concern was expressed about the "spiral" nature of the
curriculum. Students quickly get bored with repetition and the
revisiting of subjects such as chains and food webs which are
taught as part of several different subjects. This results in
a lack of progression.
There is too much overlap with other departments and excessive
duplication. They need more practical work and less coursework.
However, it was felt that coursework should not be scrapped entirely.
Coursework seems to have become and end in itself. Tutors spend
too much time teaching students how to get good marks rather than
encouraging proper scientific practical work. Tutors are spending
too much time marking coursework rather than preparing "real
Students don't enjoy practical work where the outcome is
already known and they are just expected to follow instruction
to reach that end. They much prefer to be able to investigate
SC1 should be a teaching style rather than a method of assessment.
Science needs to be taught in a "real-life" context
so that the students can apply their knowledge to current issues,
such as DNA and the Genome Project, BSE, MMR etc. At KS4, certain
subjects are not "applied" enough and the students can't
see the point in learning about them. The Applied Science syllabus
for next year is a step in the right direction.
Many students are now studying science in a modular manner, although
some still prefer to study the traditional separate schools of
chemistry, physics and biology.
There is a noticeable lack of specialist tutors, especially chemists.
It was felt that tuition standards suffer when the subjects are
taught by non-specialist tutors. They need to have a passion for
their subject in order to be able to motivate the students sufficiently
to encourage them to take their learning further.
Too much writing.
Tutors not being aware of students' prior knowledge,
Topics already explored in other lessons.
STUDENTS ON? Enthusiastic
tutors and technicians.
Relevance of curriculum to current issues.
There is a need to educate the people who sell scientific
equipment to the schools. Schools are only able to order items
which are actually in the catalogue, so technicians and tutors
often make their own equipment. The catalogue companies need to
ask the school what they need. The main supplier"Philip
Harris"is very expensive.
Science departments are poorly funded, especially for reprographics
which take up a huge chunk of the budget. Some schools are formula
funded but, in others, each department has to bid for their share
of the money.
Laboratories : each school has recently gained one new laboratory,
but this still isn't enough. Laboratories are too small and in
those schools which do not have sufficient laboratories, the tutors
are concerned that they have to carry equipment from one lab to
another. A lack of laboratories causes timetabling problems and,
in one school, only one quarter of A-level lessons actually take
part in a laboratory.
Technicians are not paid enough. Few young technicians come forward
to work in schools because of the poor wages, lack of proper salary
structure and the fact that most technicians are only paid during
term-time. The "AP&T" scales are in use in Bolton.
Schools are finding it difficult to replace retiring technicians
and recruitment is quite haphazard. Some felt that there weren't
enough technicians, others felt they had a sufficient number.
Day-release for training is no longer available and most training
courses are single-day only. Bolton has a Technicians' Forum which
meets quarterly to discuss best practice and other issues, but
there is no formal training. Although NVQs are available through
local colleges, most technicians cannot attend because these courses
are only run during the day.
Tutors would like to involve technicians in more practical sessions
in the classroom; they are a much under-used expert resource.
There is too little time to cover the whole curriculum for AS/A-level.
Most people are happy with the modular approach, which has seen
better final results and they do not wish to abandon it for AS-levels.
Coursework is causing an overload; there is too much time pressure.
The January examinations are too early and there is not enough
time to prepare for them.
Tutors are expected to do too much administration which restricts
that amount of time they can spend one-to-one with their students.
Very few students go on to do A-level science because they perceive
it to be a "difficult" subject. Students with poor mathematics
skills are struggling with science examinations because of the
maths content. The national strategy on literacy and numeracy
should help but it will take several years for the effect to reach
the post 16 level students.
Many students don't seem to realise that mathematics is a part
of science too. Science and maths departments need to have joined-up
thinking so that students are not left confused.
Bolton LA does not provide a centralised careers advice service:
the service is privatised. However, all students undertake two
weeks of work experience, often in completely irrelevant environments.
For example, science students end up working as shop assistants.
Engineering and science-based companies need to be encouraged
to participate in work experience schemes.
Foundation level science is not much higher than KS3; students
need a bigger progression. They need more vocational tuition for
those students who are turned off by science.
ICT plays a big role in the curriculum and they need more support
for ICT Technicians, especially with computers. They need specialists,
but they have to be well paid, otherwise they will just go and
work in industry instead. Tutors are currently having to prepare
"backup" lessons in case the ICT equipment fails. They
need permanent ICT laboratories because a five minute lesson changeover
is not enough to swap from, for example, chemistry to ICT.