The Science and Technology Committee has
agreed to the following Report:
SCIENCE EDUCATION FROM 14 TO 19
1. School science education has long attracted considerable
interest. The Devonshire Royal Commission published a report in
1875 which said that "still no adequate effort has been made
to correct the deficiency of scientific instruction pointed out
by the commissioners in 1861 and 1864. We were compelled therefore,
to record our opinion that the present state of scientific instruction
in our schools is extremely unsatisfactory". This Committee
in previous Parliaments raised issues relating to science education
in several reports.
The Education Committee published a report on science education
from 7 to14 in 1995. In 2001, the House of Lords Science and Technology
Committee reported on continuing professional development for
science teachers. The
Council for Science and Technology considered continuing professional
development in their report on science teachers, published in
2000, and reported on the relationship between the sciences and
the arts in 2001.
2. Science education is a matter of crucial importance
to the UK, both for the future generations of scientists, engineers
and technologists and for the wider public. Science and technology
are essential for our economic competitiveness, and to our quality
of life and lie at the heart of our history and culture. We need
people qualified in science and engineering at all levels and
all areas of the economy. We decided that our first major inquiry
of the Parliament should be into science education in schools.
Our intention was to influence the review of science education
which is to be undertaken following the recent Government Green
Paper 14-19 and to complement the Review led by Sir Gareth Roberts
on the contribution of school science to ensuring a supply of
scientists and engineers.
Our inquiry relates to England, though our findings may have relevance
to other parts of the UK.
3. Our terms of reference specifically excluded the
issue of teacher supply, on the ground that this requires an inquiry
of its own and could not be limited to the shortage of science
teachers. The supply of science teachers is a crucial issue and
has been raised with us repeatedly, and is a particular concern
for physics and chemistry where there are severe shortages of
subject specialists. The developments in curriculum and assessment
discussed in this report will have no effect unless a strong and
confident teaching force is maintained.
4. We began our inquiry by holding an informal seminar
in January with Professor Edgar Jenkins, formerly of Leeds University,
Professor Robin Millar of York University and our specialist advisers.
We had an informal meeting in February with Sir Gareth Roberts.
We issued a call for evidence and have received 107 items of written
evidence from individuals and organisations. We held five oral
evidence sessions with: scientific and engineering learned societies;
AS and A level students, held at the Science Museum in London;
practising teachers, Further Education lecturers and technicians;
employers, universities and witnesses interested in science for
citizens; and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and
the awarding bodies, and Stephen Timms MP, the then Schools Minister
at the Department for Education and Skills.
The Committee visited Quintin Kynaston School, St John's Wood,
London and Westminster School, London to speak informally with
teachers, technicians and students. A further informal meeting
was held at Westminster with staff and students from Hammersmith
and West London Further Education college. To compare the system
in England with that in Scotland, the Committee visited Beeslack
High School, Penicuik, near Edinburgh. We were briefed there by
Jack Jackson HMI on science education in Scotland and discussed
the issues further with four other science education experts.
We also met with teachers, students and technicians. Individual
members of the Committee made informal visits to schools and colleges
in their constituency areas: Fareham, Norwich, Trowbridge, Bolton,
Somerset and Castle Point in Essex. Details of these visits are
printed in Annex 1.
5. We are grateful to all those who have assisted
with the inquiry, and in particular to our Specialist Advisers:
Professor Michael Elves, former Director of the Office of Scientific
and Educational Affairs, Glaxo Wellcome plc; Professor Jonathan
Osborne of King's College, London; and Ms Becky Parker, former
Head of Science at Simon Langton Girls' School, Canterbury. Our
thanks are also due to the Parliamentary Office of Science and
Technology on which we have relied heavily for staff support in
6. The young people from whom we took formal evidence
were drawn from the steering group of a student review of the
National Curriculum. This review was based on an on-line survey
of people's views of GCSE science. The survey was carried out
between October 2001 and March 2002 under the coordination of
the Science Museum. 2,000 young people from across the country
responded. We ourselves conducted a small survey of the views
of young postgraduate and postdoctoral scientists, brought together
by the Royal Society of Chemistry in March 2002, on their experiences
of science education at school.
7. We are grateful to the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office Science and Technology Unit for providing us with information
about science education in a number of countries overseas. Details
are given in Annex 2.
We have also received useful information from UNESCO, which has
been active in promoting good practice in science and technology
education around the world, and from the Spanish Senate where
the Education, Culture and Sport Committee is conducting an inquiry
into science education in secondary schools, motivated by concerns
which are very similar to our own.
8. In this report we set out the findings of our
inquiry. We explain the existing arrangements for science education
from 14 to 19, identify problems which currently exist at 14 to
16 and post-16 including the resources for practical science,
and propose a number of ways forward. Our intention is that this
report will draw political attention to science education, inform
the House and influence Ministers in developing Government policy
and allocating expenditure.
1 Most recently, Sixth Report, Session 2000-2001, Are
we realising our potential?, HC200-I, paragraphs 57-60. Back
Education Committee, Fourth Report, Session 1994-95, Science and
technology in schools, HC28-I. House of Lords Science and Technology
Committee, First Report, Session 2000-2001, Science in Schools,
Science Teachers: a report on supporting and developing the profession
of science teaching in primary and secondary schools, February
2000. Imagination and Understanding: a report on the arts and
humanities in relation to science and technology, July 2001.
Both reports are available via www.cst.gov.uk Back
Green Paper 14-19: extending opportunities, raising standards
was published by DfES in February 2002. Chapter 3 refers to science.
It can be seen at www.dfes.gov.uk/14-19greenpaper. The Report
of Sir Gareth Roberts' Review into the supply of scientists and
engineers was published in April 2002 . Chapters 2 and 3 refer
to schools. Available via www.hmtreasury.gov.uk Back
Responsibility for education in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly
for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Back
The transcripts of the oral evidence, and written evidence, are
published in Volume II to this Report Back
See p 65 Back
See p 70 Back
For details of UNESCO's science and technology education programme
Details of the Spanish Senate's inquiry
can be found via www.senado.es Back