Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers

  Since December we have circulated members who are teaching this age range. It would be true to say that views have ranged widely.

  We particularly welcome the attention the Committee will be paying to the underlying mathematical competences. We very much hope that the Select Committee will see its way to encouraging QCA to undertake extensive research into this important area.

  Meanwhile our members suggest the following key messages:

  1.  Both at Key Stage 4 and post-16, the overloaded nature of the curriculum militates against learners achieving real scientific understanding

  2.  The curriculum is over-assessed. Time spent at an examination desk is time taken away from learning science. Teachers report excessive paperwork arising from marking of, eg, practical assessments. Streamlining is needed here.

  3.  Underfunding has endangered the practical aspects of the subject yet it is these aspects which lend science its particular appeal, and capacity to motivate.

  4.  For far too many of the less academic pupils, the present curriculum can often feel uninviting. It may be that what is needed in the long term is a national curriculum with more inbuilt choice.

  5.  There is an issue about the extent to which topics need to be repeated. Abler pupils are reported as being bored by revisiting material at Key Stage 4 that they recall from Key Stage 3.

  6.  Insufficient research work appears to have been done on pupil perceptions. Thus some teachers report that it is easy for pupils to see a module as a mini-subject, an end to itself, losing a sense of science as a whole in the process.

  7.  Some of our respondents highlighted the need for flexibility while being concerned for its manageability. Examples included:

    —  Early entry for GCSE followed by AS Science and Public Understanding taken in Year 11

    —  An additional Environmental Science option to offer more intellectually challenging content than the separate or double science GCSEs

    —  Allowing the least interested students to do a single science (there have been proposals for a general or applied science GCSE)

  8.  While our respondents could see all of these options as having merit, without exception they were uncertain about whether their institutions had sufficient resources to offer the diversity they felt their learners needed.

May 2002

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 11 July 2002