Practical experiments in school science lessons and science field trips - Science and Technology Committee Contents


Conclusions and recommendations


The value of practical experience and good guidance

1.  We conclude that both practical lessons and learning outside the classroom are essential contributors to good quality science education. (Paragraph 21)

2.  We found no convincing evidence that health and safety legislation itself prevents science practicals or field trips. (Paragraph 30)

3.  We recommend that the Government work to establish a central repository or facility (or network of such facilities with a common interface) which will contain details and guidance on standard experiments. This facility should provide access, for member schools, to any CLEAPSS provided health and safety guidance for those experiments. (Paragraph 37)

Continuing skill development for teachers

4.  We strongly recommend that Ofsted report on how effectively schools provide opportunities for their science teachers to stay up to date with their science specialism, specifically in attendance of externally provided subject training, as part of Schedule 5 inspections under the current heading of "The effectiveness of leadership and management in embedding ambition and driving improvement". (Paragraph 55)

5.  We have not been convinced of the merits of an accredited course, which was advanced by Professor King of the Earth Science Teachers' Association but we do recommend that all trainee science teachers should be expected to prepare successfully and lead at least one fieldwork session themselves, and to take part in a field trip before acquiring qualified teacher status. (Paragraph 57)

6.  The Government should require that, in order to advance over pay thresholds, a science teacher should demonstrate he or she has maintained the practical classroom skills, fieldwork and associated risk assessment skills necessary to be a good science teacher. (Paragraph 59)

The importance of technical support and quality facilities

7.  A school providing science courses at GCSE and A level should be required to demonstrate, during Ofsted inspection, it has ready access to a basic suite of facilities such as fume cupboards to facilitate rigorous examination of science skills. It would be incumbent on the Government to identify what a basic suite of facilities would be for the benefit of both senior management teams and examination boards. (Paragraph 64)

8.  We reiterate the recommendation of our predecessor committee for action to be taken to "address the appalling pay and conditions of science technicians and to create a career structure that will attract skilled and dedicated people to work as technicians". (Paragraph 69)

9.  We recommend that, when carrying out a Schedule 5 inspection, Ofsted should explicitly report on the management of science laboratories and, during a specialist science visit, the relationship between teachers and technical staff in the planning and delivery of practical lessons should be a key part of that inspection. (Paragraph 71)

Using examinations to drive fieldwork

10.  We recommend that Ofqual direct examination boards to require a fieldwork component to science courses in which students must collect data as part of fieldwork outside the classroom and prove a level of competence in its analysis and that the Government give clear guidance to schools on how the pupil premium might be used to meet this requirement. (Paragraph 76)

The use of exhortation and facilitation

11.  We recommend that, in its response to this report, the Government set out in detail how its "exhortation and facilitation" policy will work and what ministers will do that is distinct from their predecessors. (Paragraph 81)

12.  We conclude that the Government has to ensure that students appreciate that the practical side of the sciences, as well as the theoretical, can lead to employment opportunities and that the qualifications which are offered facilitate students from among a wider ability range to study triple science at school. (Paragraph 84)

13.  We recommend that the Government seek to change this narrow perception of how schools should be measured against each other by promoting, for example in league tables, the various measures of science success such as the number of teachers in the school to achieve chartered status and participation by pupils in, for instance, the Crest awards. (Paragraph 85)

Using examinations to drive practical science skills

14.  We welcome the Department's commitment to assessment of practical skills in and out of the laboratory within the formal examination system. We recommend that the Department implement this within a five year timescale. (Paragraph 87)

15.  To ensure the best possible use of these facilities, we recommend that Ofqual direct examination boards, within five years, to require an examination that properly assesses both students' laboratory skills and their technique and understanding of the experimental process. (Paragraph 92)

Enhancing and enriching the science curriculum

16.  We welcome the Government's intention to slim down the science curriculum. The Government should seek to ensure that the time gained through the slimming down of the curriculum is used to broaden the teaching of science and its practical aspects rather than more time to revise courses for examinations. (Paragraph 94)

17.  The Government should seek to secure the long term future of the STEM Directories as a tool to encourage good quality enhancement and enrichment activity, reduce gaps in provision and facilitate more providers and schools to participate. The relatively small amount of money involved should be found directly by Government or by encouraging sponsorship within the science community and providers of enhancement and enrichment activities. (Paragraph 101)

18.  We recommend that science organisations build on the STEM Directories and the similar Getting Practical website as useful starting points in providing gateways through which teachers might more easily engage with enrichment and enhancement activities. (Paragraph 102)


 
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Prepared 14 September 2011