Supplementary evidence from Greg Jones
(Sch Sci 47)|
1. Risk assessments are an essential part of
science experiments but they should not be "set in stone"
but amended in the light of changing circumstances. They are analogous
with security at Portcullis House, Westminster, which has changed
significantly over the years in response to the threats to our
society from terrorism. In the light of new knowledge, new procedures
have been put in place to minimise the risks to all and, as with
risk assessments, are reviewed regularly.
2. There are too many examples of risk assessments
for certain experiments available. What would improve the situation
is that a generic one should be drawn up for each experiment,
sent to every exam board to be incorporated with their appropriate
syllabus and then adapted by each institution for their particular
3. These generic risk assessments could be drawn
up by practicing scientists within such bodies as the Association
for Science Education, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Institute
of Chemistry, the Institute of Biology and the Institute of Education.
These risk assessments should then be sent to the exam boards
for them to incorporate with their science syllabi before being
sent to schools and colleges for their adaptation.
4. The effect of having such generic risk assessments,
for all the experiments that will be covered by exam syllabi,
would be to stop science teachers "re-inventing the wheel"
and to have a base level of compliance for assessing experimental
5. The use of Information Technology (IT) equipment
within science lessons is as a tool which supports the teaching
and learning. They can be used for a variety of activities; from
dataloggers and visual measuring devices to interactive whiteboards
and experiment simulators.
6. Using IT within science can also encourage
the development of important research skills, which are an essential
part of scientific investigations at both GCSE and A Level, but
it should never replace or detract from the carrying out of actual
practical scientific experiments.
7. The amount of money that school/college Science
Departments have to spend on IT or are allocated as part of the
overall IT budget within the institution is extremely variable.
Consequently, the amount of IT used within science lessons is
8. In spite of this, the minimum requirements
of IT and its use within science lessons is laid down by exam
board syllabi but I feel that amount of IT needs to be increased
still further if schools/colleges are to prepare students adequately
for studying a University science course.
9. During school/college refurbishment programmes,
often the question that is asked is "what kind of science
lab provision is needed in the future?" Too often the answer
from Head teachers is that "Science can be carried out in
a normal classroom." New school buildings, especially under
PFI/new build academies, have tended to cut corners on science
lab specs to keep costs down.
10. This kind of attitude further erodes the
possibilities of carrying out practical scientific experiments/investigations
by students in an appropriate setting and leads to more theory
work, and consequently less practical work, in science lessons.
11. Science teachers are good role models for
students as they illustrate the skills that are needed in a particular
workplace. Practical skill is just one of the main tools that
teachers have in their "toolbag" but the size and complexity
of that skill has diminished over time due to the constraints
of exam syllabi and the perceived need to "teach to the exam".
12. The consequence now is that students who
become teaches are less confident in doing practical work in science
lessons, so less practical work is done. This downward spiral
can only be reversed by increasing the amount of practical work
that needs to be done and as a result teacher confidence in doing
practicals/experiments will increase accordingly. The change to
Initial Teacher Education (ITE) requirements in 2007 meant an
increase in the amount of time spent on teaching practice, with
a consequent reduction in the time spent with the ITE provider.
This has certainly lessened opportunities for trainee teachers
to practice their skills. If not much practical work is going
on at their placement schools, trainees may have hardly any chance
to become confident in taking practical classes themselves.
13. Fun for both teachers and students needs
to be put back into science, particularly at Key Stages 4 and
5. Teachers and students can have fun together by doing more experiments,
improving their practical/experimental skills and increasing their
ability to learn more science through practical investigations.
14. Time is needed to develop any skills and
practical ones need as much, if not more, as most others. But
that time can only come from "freeing up" the science
curriculum, by reviewing and reducing the content of all science
exam syllabi and by making them more modern, interesting and practically
15. Field trips are beneficial to both students
and teachers alike as they improve working relationships, encourage
teamwork, promote problem solving, consolidate teaching and learning
as well as create fun and interest.
16. For students, field trips often result in
a better attitude to work, to the subject and to the teachers
involved as well as an increased maturity for some individual
students - all of which are beneficial for making them better
17. All teacher training courses, whether carried
out through Universities or through schools/colleges, need to
be revised to free up time for student teachers/Newly Qualified
Teachers to practice their experimental skills on a weekly, if
not daily, basis.
18. Education is always changing and science
curricula are no different. It would be better to change and then
have no more change for a number of years in order that the result
of that change can be consolidated and built upon. Teachers are
not averse to change but "change for change's sake"
and "changes every year" do not engender teachers to
28 June 2011