Supplementary written evidence submitted
by Field Studies Council (Sch Sci 07a)|
The Field Studies Council (FSC) was delighted to
have the opportunity to give oral evidence to the Science and
Technology Committee on 29 June2011. Due to the time constraints
of the session I felt that there were a number of issues which
I was unable to fully bring to members attention. We have, therefore,
pulled together this short document to expand on our oral evidence
and would be most grateful if members of the committee would take
a moment to read its contents.
I raised the point about the weakness in the professional
standards for teachers in relation to outdoor science but didn't
have time to fill in the detail. The current standards are presented
at five levels:
Standards for out-of-school learning fall within
the section labelled Teaching Skillsthe Learning Environment.
There are standards for The Learning Environment at QTS
and Core levels, but no further professional development after
that. In other words an AST is only expected to achieve the same
standard as a QTS or C Teacher. The Learning Environment is the
only teaching skill that isn't developed (unlike Planning, Assessment,
Teamwork etc.) above Core level.
Without an obvious professional development underpinned
by explicit standards, prospective PTs, ETs and ASTs won't value
CPD courses associated with Teaching Skillsthe Learning
Environment as highly as the other areas. It sends the wrong
message about this area of competency being valued.
The FSC supports a main recommendations in the
Outdoor Science report recently published by
the ASE's Outdoor Science Working Group which calls for "more
experienced teachers to demonstrate their own role in providing
fieldwork training for colleagues in other departments and schools
(including across age phases and transitions)."
Another recent development (since the committee's
call for evidence closed) is very worrying. Paul Cohen of the
TDA referred to the current review into Professional Standards.
The first drafts to emerge from this review show that any reference
to learning in out-of-school contexts has disappeared completely
from the teaching skills section (even at QTS level). This will
represent a big setback for those of us who would like science
teachers to develop skills which will enable them to employ the
full range of teaching and learning approaches available, both
inside and outside the classroom.
It is almost impossible to imagine how the current
levels of professional development in teaching in out-of-school
contexts will be improved when the standards are weakened, allied
to the fact that a growth in number of initial teacher training
locations could make inspection and monitoring even more difficult.
The FSC strongly recommends that the reference
to learning in an out-of-school context should be retained in
the QTS standards, and further developed through subsequent standards
to ATS level.
The Chairman raised the issue of equitability, with
uneven access by State and Independent schools. Published evidence
(eg Power, 2007) clearly shows that schools with higher proportions
of Free School Meals have fewer field trips, and these experiences
tend to be narrower and less inspiring. Since the call for evidence
closed the government has published its natural Environment White
Paper (The Natural Choice). This states that "we have created
a Pupil Premium, intended to raise the attainment of low-income
families. This could be used to give fairer access to nature for
pupils from deprived backgrounds, for example funding school trips
to experience the natural environment". The Schools Minister,
Nick Gibb MP, has repeated this in response to parliamentary questions.
We feel that that the use of the Pupil Premium for this purpose
is unlikely to happen without very clear and strong guidance from
The FSC recommends that explicit guidance should
be given to head teachers and governors, clearly stating that
the pupil premium can, and should (when appropriate), be used
to support science practicals and field trips.
The demise of science fieldwork for some inner city
schools is likely to be exacerbated by a continuing (and possibly
accelerating) closure of Local Authority run field centres upon
which many secondary schools currently rely for science fieldwork.
Recent surveys, including one broadcast by the BBC, show that
33% of such centres think that they are in imminent danger of
Dr Stephen Tilling
Director of Communications
Field Studies Council
30 June 2011