Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 60-61)



  60. Their experience is that when they ask those questions they are told, "that is not on the syllabus we have to move on". We are trying to get you to embrace a vision of science that actually makes it much more centred round the students' interests in current issues and discursive, argumentative skills and a variety of things that draw upon that. I do not think that you have given me the feeling that you understand that. I am asking you to try and take that on board so when we next have this discussion it will not sound as if your model of science is as old-fashioned as it currently sounds.
  (Mr Miliband) I will take that seriously; I will take that away. A similar charge is made against us in a wholly different area; let me explain; we are told that in primary schools the emphasis on literacy and numeracy means there is no room for enrichment activities and that all other activities are being squeezed out of the primary school curriculum. OFSTED enquired into this and what they found was that in 25% of schools that were actually delivering a primary strategy properly, a literacy and numeracy strategy properly, there was synergy between enrichment activities and the literacy and numeracy that we were putting such emphasis on. I feel we probably have a similar situation here; there are schools and colleges up and down the country who are arming young people with the technical knowledge but they are also firing them with imagination and enthusiasm for the debates that come out of that, the debates in which their technical knowledge is used. What I am hearing here is we have to do a better job in making sure more schools are able to provide that combination of technical knowledge and real debate. I am not yet convinced the curriculum or the assessment mechanism makes that impossible. In my estimate there is a good 20% to 25% of schools that are doing that.

  Mr McWalter: We say that it does.


  61. Thank you, Minister, for coming. I think we do have a fundamental disagreement; it has been important to air it here together. We do hope that you will take some of the Committee's criticisms and ideas forward. We are committed, as I am sure you and your Department are, to advancing science in this country because it does fit in so much to technological developments but also to the wealth of this country. We see a problem; we have been trying hard to convince you, and I hope that you go away and contemplate it amongst all of the other problems that you and other ministers have at the minute. We sympathise with that but please do not ignore our Report in terms of scientific developments in this country. Thank you for taking the time.
  (Mr Miliband) Thank you.

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