Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Department for Education and Skills
I would like to thank the Committee for giving Stephen
Timms the opportunity, with Janet Dallas, to give evidence, as
part of your Inquiry into Science 14-19. They both found the session
stimulating and thought provoking.
I am replying to your request for further clarification
of some of the issues discussed.
First, on GCE A levels in the sciences, mathematics
and computer sciences, I attach statistical data used by the Department,
between 1991-92 and 1999-2000. The final figures for 2000-01 are
being finalised and will be published on our statistical website
Table A shows the number of A level entries in each
of the subjects listed by 16-18 year old candidates between 1991-92
and 1999-2000. The "total" referred to is the number
of A level entries by 16-18 year olds in any subject.
Table B shows the same information, dating back to
1994-95, including the percentage change in entries between those
dates. It is included to enable the Committee to see the source
of the data Stephen Timms quoted at the hearing on 29 April.
I have also attached Table C prepared by the Department
for the Committee, which shows A level science and mathematics
entries between 1991-92 and 1999-2000 as a proportion of total
A level entries. The Committee may find it helpful to see how
science and mathematics have fared in terms of their "market
share". The table shows that the percentage of 16-18 year
old entries for chemistry, physics and mathematics as a proportion
of the total number of A level entries, has decreased slightly
between 1992 and 2000. Biology, other science and computer studies
have all shown a small increase. Overall, the tables reflect a
relatively stable position for each science subject and for mathematics
compared to all other subjects and a decline of 3.5 percentage
points for the subjects taken together. I am not suggesting there
is room for complacency, but the data shows that students are
not deserting science and mathematics in large numbers and, as
Stephen said in his evidence to the Inquiry, actual numbers taking
these A levels have gone up since 1994-95 in every subject except
The Committee also asked about the Department's policies
on collecting data. Data on public examinations is collected by
the Awarding Bodies, and, following statistical quality assurance
and adjustment, including being checked by schools, is used as
the basis for publication of statistical tables in our Statistical
First Release series, and for the School and College Performance
Second, the Committee asked about our plans for evaluating
the impact of the £60 million investment in school science
laboratories over the last two years.
Funding for school science laboratories came to an
end in March 2002. Local Education Authorities have until the
end of August 2002 to spend their allocations. The precise format
of the evaluation is yet to be finalised, and we anticipate the
report will be completed by next summer.
Finally, the Committee asked about our plans for
introducing a new National Curriculum for science, as discussed
in 14-19:Extending Opportunities, Raising Standards.
We are introducing a new applied science GCSE from
this September that will offer young people a new route into science
as a career. However, we are consulting on our Green Paper until
31 May and will carefully consider the responses before deciding
on any changes to the curriculum, including the Programmes of
Study for science, and before drawing up the timetable for introducing
The Green Paper also makes clear that, if there are
changes to the curriculum, there will be further consultation
on those, and the timetable for introducing change will allow
preparation and time for teachers to be trained.
I hope the Committee will feel I have responded fully
to their questions, but I am, of course, happy to provide further
information if needed, 1 look forward to seeing their final report.
David Miliband MP
Minister of State for School Standards
20 June 2002