Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Wellcome Trust
1. The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity
in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK
and internationally, spending around £600 million each year
to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome
Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its
impact on health and wellbeing.
2. The Wellcome Trust responded to the (then)
Education and Skills Committee inquiry into Testing and Assessment
in June 2007. In our submission we referred to research that the
Trust was commissioning into the effects of compulsory national
testing in science and said that we would be able to provide interim
findings to the Committee.
3. The summary report from the research
is now available and is attached as an Annex.
The research was conducted by the Institute of Education and considered
the effects of compulsory national testing on the teaching of
science, and teachers, at Year 6 (Y6) in England; and the impact
of the abolition of statutory testing in science at Key Stage
2 (KS2) in Wales on Y6 science teaching and teachers.
4. The research was conducted through a
telephone survey of 600 teachers, science coordinators and headteachers
(300 from England, 300 from Wales) and sixteen focus groups (eight
in England, eight in Wales) involving a total of 74 Year 6 teachers,
science coordinators, headteachers and secondary science teachers.
The summary report is therefore drawn from teachers' perceptions
of the impact of compulsory testing.
5. The key points from the report are:
teachers consider statutory testing
to be leading to a narrowing of the science curriculum and limiting
approaches to teaching;
teachers in England find it difficult
to maintain positive attitudes to science among pupils and suggested
that abolishing testing would make science more enjoyable;
teachers in England feel that abolishing
statutory testing would enable them to respond more to individual
pupils' needs and would allow pupils to develop greater independence
teachers support retaining optional
test materials to inform teacher assessment (as they have been
in Wales); and
summative teacher assessment is seen
to provide a more accurate assessment of pupils' level of attainment
in science than national test results and teachers are concerned
about how data from school achievement tables may be used.
6. While it is still too early for the effects
of the abolition of testing in Wales to be fully realised, Welsh
teachers suggest that the emphasis in science teaching is beginning
to shift away from the transmission of factual knowledge towards
the development of pupils' skills to support their learning in
science, and there has been an increased emphasis on small group
work and practical activities.
7. The report makes three recommendations:
there should be a review of classroom
support for science in Y6 classes to enable practical whole class
activities and to support summative teacher assessment of pupil
attainment in England and Wales;
consideration is needed of how to
improve progression in learning during KS2 in England and Wales;
there should be an evaluation of
how appropriate it is to use school achievement tables based on
KS2 test results for purposes of accountability in England.
8. The Trust would urge the Committee to
consider these recommendations in its review of testing and assessment
14 Research into the Effects of Compulsory National
Testing in Science on Teachers and Teaching at KS2, Dr Sue Collins,
Professor Michael Reiss, and Professor Gordon Stobart, Commissioned
by the Wellcome Trust in association with the Association for
Science Education. Not printed. Available on Committee website. Back