Health and safety
137. There is a widely held belief that practical
work in schools is now constrained by health and safety regulations.
This is simply not true. Indeed, we have heard that the introduction
of risk assessment as standard practice enables a wider range
of experimental work to be carried out than previously.
Advice on health and safety is available to schools from the CLEAPSS
School Science Service and the Association for Science Education
it may well be the case that some teachers believe inaccurately
that certain experiments are banned. It has also been suggested
to us that supposed regulations may be used as an excuse by teachers
not to do practical work where other health and safety issues
are the real concern. This may apply in particular where teachers
lack confidence when teaching outside their scientific discipline,
where there is a lack of technical support or where classes are
138. The scientific learned societies and the ASE
highlighted large class sizes in secondary science as making it
difficult for teachers to manage practical classes.
James Salmon from the Anglo-European School, Essex described teaching
classes of "30-32 [students] in labs that were designed for
Crocker said that "if there are 30 pupils most teachers would
like to have somebody else in there in practicals, but it does
Data provided by Ofsted, based on inspections carried out in the
2000/01 academic year, shows class sizes in double science GCSE
ranging from 6 to 34 students, with a median of 24. A small survey
carried out by the ASE suggest that it is the top sets in science
that tend to be larger so that it is the most able students who
are being most directly affected.
In contrast, legislation limits practical science lessons to 20
students in Scottish schools and to 24 in Northern Ireland.
The ASE do not believe that it is currently possible to impose
a size limit in England. We recognise the difficulty of implementing
smaller class sizes in science given the existing teacher shortage
but feel that, in the interests of health and safety, this should
be a priority. The longer term aim should be to reduce secondary
school practical science classes to no more that 20 students.
230 Science teaching resources: 11-16 year olds. Royal
Society. 1997. Back
Ofsted Annual report 1997/98, published February 1999. Back
Data from Ofsted reported in the Roberts Review, figure 2.18 Back
DfES press notice 2000/0171, April 18, 2000. Available via www.dfes.gov.uk Back
Ev 86, para 6 and ev 87, Appendix 4. Upper estimates of cost
laboratory refurbishment range from £55,000-£70,000,
which would include building work to remodel or renew services
such as gas, electricity, water and drainage. Back
Ev 86, para 3. Back
Ev 205, Appendix 50 Back
Refurbishing 6 laboratories at £20,000 each and one prep
room at £13,000 in 905 schools would cost £121 million. Back
Science Teaching Resources:11-16 year olds. Published by the
Royal Society, October 1997. Back
Ev 86, para 9. See also Ev 182, Appendix 40 Back
Supporting success: science technicians in school and colleges.
2002. Available via www.royalsoc.ac.uk/education Back
SED 96 Ev 201 Back
Ev 125, para 45 Back
Q295. See also Ev 93, para 7.2; Ev 165, paras 47; Ev 183 Back
See www.cleapss.org.uk and www.ase.org.uk . CLEAPSS is the Consortium
of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services.
See Ev 182, Appendix 40 Back
Ev 93, para 7.4 and Ev 84, para 9. See also Ev 181, para 13 Back
Ev 93, para 7.4 Back
The Schools Scotland Code 1956, regulation 15(2), specifies a
maximum of 20 students in a class for "practical instruction
in science, art, art crafts, mechanics, benchwork, technical drawing,
typewriting, cookery, laundrywork, dressmaking, housewifery,
agriculture, gardening, dairying, navigation and seamanship".
The Secondary Schools (Grant Conditions) Regulations (Northern
Ireland) 1973, regulation 15, specifies that practical classes
should be restricted to 20 students unless the Department of Education
approves otherwise. Subsequently, circular 2001/14, issued in
2001 by the Department of Education, gave blanket approval for
science classes to be increased to 26 students at key stage 3
and 24 at key stage 4. Back