To be published as HC 1060-ii

House of COMMONS



Science and Technology Committee

Practical experiments in school science lessons and science field trips

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Paul Cohen, Annette Smith, Dr Phil Smith MBE and Dr Steve Tilling

Beth Gardner, Professor Graham Hutchings FRS, Sir Roland Jackson and Steve Jones

Evidence heard in Public Questions 35 - 104



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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Science and Technology Committee

on Wednesday 29 June 2011

Members present:

Andrew Miller (Chair)

Stephen McPartland

Stephen Metcalfe

David Morris

Stephen Mosley

Pamela Nash

Graham Stringer

Roger Williams


Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Paul Cohen, Director, Initial Teacher Training Recruitment, Training and Development Agency, Annette Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Association for Science Education, Dr Phil Smith MBE, Co-ordinator, Teacher Scientist Network, and Dr Steve Tilling, Field Studies Council, gave evidence.

Q35 Chair: I welcome you all here this morning. Can I start by asking you all briefly to introduce yourselves?

Paul Cohen: Good morning. My name is Paul Cohen. I am the Director of Initial Teacher Training Recruitment at the Training and Development Agency for Schools. That means I am responsible for ensuring that the Government achieves its annual national targets for the recruitment of trainee teachers. I also have oversight of science matters in the agency.

Annette Smith: I am Annette Smith. I am Chief Executive at the Association for Science Education, which is the membership organisation for science teachers.

Dr Smith: I am Dr Phil Smith. I am Co-ordinator of the Teacher Scientist Network, a science education charity based in Norwich.

Dr Tilling: I am Steve Tilling. I am a scientist by training. I am Director of Communications for the Field Studies Council, which runs 18 field centres and produces scientific publications.

Q36 Chair: Thank you all for coming. I am going to quote directly from the Teacher Scientist Network. They told us that "good teachers are those who are confident teachers, up to date in their subject knowledge and practically adept themselves. These teachers will be those most able to inspire future scientists." Can you provide us with a picture of what is needed to make a good science teacher? Is teaching a practical class a different skill set from other forms of teaching?

Dr Smith: It definitely is a different skill set, but the two skill sets are combined by very able teachers because they have a commitment to teach both the practical and the theory. The theory on its own is very dry and is really uninspiring unless you are of that mindset. However, I believe passionately that when the theory is combined with the practical that is when the young people start to realise, "Yes, this is the value of doing the science. This is why I do science. This is why I want to do more science." The two skill sets are complementary. Therefore, teachers need two different skill sets themselves to be able to teach those pupils adeptly.

Dr Tilling: We would agree with that. We would suggest that a teacher would have, or should have, that full skill set to be able to offer the full range of teaching and learning approaches, which would include classroom as well as outdoor and beyond the classroom teaching.

Annette Smith: We hear a lot about inspirational teachers, but actually every teacher needs all of those skills. It is a difficult skill set, which is why perhaps we concentrate on science teachers a lot more than others. I would also add the linkage between practical science and the theoretical as being a very important part of science teaching. Teachers need to be able to make those links so that they are not doing practical work or outdoor work in isolation from the theoretical work that they will do back in the classroom.

Paul Cohen: I agree. The way that we approach Initial Teacher Training is to combine the theory and the practical, as you will be aware. In science, it is particularly important and there are a number of reports that no doubt we will come on to which reinforce the importance of the practical and the theory being integrated. There is one other point as well, which is that in terms of what makes a confident teacher in sciences particularly, but generally, they need to be comfortable in their specialism. They need to be able to apply that specialism while being aware of other specialisms. A lot of our work is designed to get a broad equilibrium of specialisms within science in the new teacher work force.

Q37 Chair: Can I just push you on that particular point because, of course, that is clearly very true of the secondary sector, but in the primary sector one sees few people with science qualifications? How, in the training process, do you address the needs to give all teachers the right skill sets to inspire younger children about science?

Paul Cohen: It is true that our focus has been on secondary because that is where the pressure has been around GCSE and A-levels. Primaries are a slightly different situation because you are largely looking at a model where a teacher will teach a year group for all their subjects. We have been offering some continuing professional development to teachers in primary schools to encourage them to improve their specialist science knowledge. I know that a number of providers do offer a science specialism alongside their primary teacher training courses. We are pushing that agenda as well as at the secondary level.

Annette Smith: I think it is too much to hope that the Initial Teacher Training can cover primary science properly for all teachers. There is so much in the PGCE year. It has to be complemented by professional development throughout the career. One of the things that we have been doing is something called Primary Science Quality Mark, which looks at science across a school and aims to give all of the teachers in the school confidence in their teaching of science. The confidence in primary education is key.

Dr Smith: I would support that. When you have the need for extra staff developments year-on-year for good teachers who are established after one or two years’ training, it is very easily forgotten that senior management and the pressures within the school environment can easily take away from that vital element of ongoing support for teachers. These days we see so many changes to the curriculum. It is not yearly, but certainly I would say every two to three years there is a new change to which teachers have to adapt, and they have to make that change straight away. When they make that change straight away, do they have time to focus on their subject knowledge? The chances are, no, they don’t. Then you end up, two or three years down the line, slightly outdated, slightly less confident in your science teaching. There can be a real detrimental effect on that. There is this combination of factors that we have interplaying together that is adversely affecting teachers’ ability to do practical science both in the primary and secondary sector. But we feel very strongly that the primary sector is very neglected.

Dr Tilling: Obviously, I will talk mainly about fieldwork and outdoor science. Certainly within those areas, we also feel that that CPD, that progression in skills, is let down by the standards which underpin that progression. For example, one of the skills that a teacher is expected to develop over the course of becoming more specialised and also more experienced from a qualified teacher through to an advanced skills teacher is to build skills in terms of the learning environment. That obviously includes out-of-classroom learning. Yet the learning environment is the only part of that whole progression within standards which does not progress at all from the early stages of a career scientist. Whether you progress through threshold and through to an advanced skills teacher, there is no standard which underpins that development in terms of working outside the classroom.

Chair: That takes us seamlessly on to David Morris, who wants to ask you some specific questions about fieldwork.

Q38 David Morris: Good morning, everybody. Part of the question that I was going to ask has already been answered. Going on to the fieldwork, the Earth Science Teachers’ Association recommends that there be "a nationally recognised and accredited fieldwork leadership course". Do you endorse this proposal?

Dr Tilling: Absolutely; yes. We run courses-and I say "we" in the general sense across the community-for NQTs and early career scientists, for example, at the National Science Learning Centre. There seems to be a demand for them. I come back to my earlier points just now. Unless there are standards to which professional scientists or professional teachers can aspire or be expected to attain by the time they become advanced skills teachers, then that demand might not be there in terms of the higher order development of skills.

Q39 David Morris: Mr Cohen, do you concur with Dr Tilling’s observations?

Paul Cohen: Yes. As Dr Tilling said, if there is sufficient demand for such a qualification, I am sure the market will respond. Of course, there are requirements around understanding, planning and operating fieldwork which are built into the various standards that exist at the moment for newly qualified teachers, and then on, as Dr Tilling said, through the various levels. The standards as a suite are being reviewed at the moment. The Secretary of State for Education has set up an independent review. No doubt Dr Tilling and others will be feeding into that review and it will be interesting to see it when that comes out.

Q40 David Morris: Do you think the provision of school fieldwork and field trips would be affected? Do you think it would go more in the line of quality and not quantity? Is that how you would see it going eventually?

Dr Tilling: I see both. Within science, in contrast to geography, for example, whereas the geographers are now talking very much about the quality of their fieldwork because the quantity is there, science still needs to tackle both the quantity and the quality.

Q41 David Morris: Do you think that science teachers should generalise in neither classroom nor outdoor, or do you think there should be specific fieldwork specialists to take children out into the field and see it at first hand?

Dr Tilling: It is always useful to have specialists who can support teachers, but, as we said right at the beginning, I think it should be part of a suite of teaching skills that any science teacher should have. The confidence, the competence and also the commitment to go outside the classroom should be a general requirement of science teachers generally.

Q42 Stephen Metcalfe: When we started this inquiry, one of the issues we were concerned with was health and safety and whether or not that had adversely affected the way practical science was taught both inside and outside the classroom. We have received a bit of a mixed message. The witnesses that we have had in front of us have said, no, it is not the primary block, but some of our e-consultation has said that there are some serious issues. One particular practising teacher talked about the "health and safety issues linked with the blame culture", "a disincentive to do anything that might have a risk" and that senior management are "wary of science and are risk averse". We have so me examples where someone quoted that they had had to wear goggles to do a soap and water experiment, which does seem quite extreme. What is your experience of health and safety assessments?

Annette Smith: We did some work, which is part of our written evidence, asking our membership which disincentives there were to doing practical work in the classroom and in field trips and whether health and safety played a part in that. We found that it was not the major issue. It was not the major detractor from doing practical science or field trips. That could be because we took our data from our membership, and our membership is singularly well informed about health and safety matters because we write books for them and we provide them with lots of briefings. So they are extremely well informed and they know what hurdles there are that they have to cross. They know about risk assessment. So they would perhaps select themselves as being less worried. They were much more concerned about time for preparation, general resources and support in the classroom and such like. The issues they had were much more general. They feel they can deal with health and safety. That also might be because they are scientists and scientists have understandings of risk and analysis of that.

Q43 Stephen Metcalfe: Do you want to add to that?

Dr Tilling: I agree with Annette. Our evidence, of which we have a lot with different groups of teachers at different levels of experience, is that there is a relationship between experience and concerns to do with health and safety. Taking an average, health and safety is an issue. It is a barrier but it is by no means the most important barrier for most of the people that we work with, which includes PGCE students.

Q44 Chair: Has there not been a shift over time towards the teacher demonstrating rather than the student participating in experiments under the guise of health and safety? Do you think youngsters actually get the same hands-on experience in the lab, in particular, as they did when certainly I was at school?

Annette Smith: There is an important place for demonstration in a school teaching lab. There are some things that you either have in short supply or they are just a little bit too dangerous to let the children have themselves. There is a suitable place for it, but it cannot replace young people handling materials and other things, observing for themselves, and having the whole of the rest of the experience that practical science brings. So there is the discussion and the debate about what is going on and the interaction with peers and so forth. It cannot replace it but there is a place for it. There are some important things that you can do by demonstration that young people cannot do individually.

Q45 Stephen Metcalfe: Following on from what the Chair said, do you think there is as much of that as there was, say, 25 years ago? Do you think there is as much hands-on or, because the health and safety culture has become so embedded, we expect that to be part of what we do and that has actually detracted from the amount of time that is available for practical hands-on science?

Annette Smith: We cannot see firm evidence for that. What we can see is from the other end. There are pressures to do with lack of technical support, resources and time, and particularly in secondary education the school day itself mitigates against doing considered practical work. It makes it much more difficult. You would imagine that with those difficulties there would be less going on, but we do not have firm data to back that up.

Dr Tilling: Perhaps I could pitch in with fieldwork. We do have evidence. Obviously we take well over 20,000 scientists a year and have been for the last 70 years or so. I can tell you categorically that, over the last 20 years, there has been a decline in numbers of scientists going on not just our residential courses but also day courses. In terms of upper secondary groups, there has been a shortening of the experience. It is about half of what it was 15 years ago. Linked to that, because of transport costs and other things, they are also going more local than they were 15 years ago. I think there have been substantial shifts.

Q46 Stephen Metcalfe: CLEAPSS was concerned at the variation in consistency in the Initial Teacher Training advice on using their services, because they provide help with risk assessment, as I am sure you are aware. Where should the responsibility lie for making sure that teachers across the board-newly qualified all the way through to advanced skills teachers-understand what is and is not as much required to do a good assessment so that you can carry on doing practical science?

Paul Cohen: I will start with Initial Teacher Training. The responsibility in Initial Teacher Training legally and practically rests with the provider of the training. There are standards which relate to ensuring that a trainee understands both the curriculum and specifically the health and safety aspects that may relate to any practical work. As an agency, we share with others a commitment in trying to ensure that there is greater consistency between what happens on ITT and out-of-classroom experiences with others. We sponsor the Teaching Outside The Classroom Partnership. Essentially, it is a website with all the places that welcome trainees so that they can learn more about this stuff. We also promote and support agencies that offer health and safety advice. Ultimately, it rests with the provider, but we do what we can to point people in the right direction at that stage of their development.

Annette Smith: In school, obviously, it is the Government that has structured the school that is responsible for making sure that that happens throughout the school and should be asking all of the questions about risk assessment on all fronts, including practical work.

Q47 Stephen Metcalfe: But if the responsibility lies with the school, the tone of how much assessment is required will lie very much with the senior management of the school and how risk averse they are. Should there not be some sort of blanket standard or standard that is applied equally across the whole education system? If that is the case, who should then look at that? Who should control that?

Paul Cohen: If I can just come back, there are two slightly different questions there. One is about who is responsible for taking the decisions. As Annette Smith has said, it is ultimately the teacher. But then there is the question of whether there should be some common guidance to which people are working. I am aware that the Department is in the process of responding to Lord Young’s report on trying to remove some of the bureaucracy and the burden out of health and safety. He is looking to issue revised guidance shortly, which is going to be around the principles of common sense and proportionality. There will be a guide then around which heads and teachers can work more consistently than they have in the past.

Q48 Stephen Metcalfe: Who will be responsible for making sure that that guidance gets not only into the school but then into the classroom?

Paul Cohen: It will rest with heads to make sure that the guidelines are followed as they consider appropriate.

Q49 Stephen Metcalfe: That is where I am coming from. It is where they see appropriate, so if it ends up on the corner of a desk stuffed under a pile of very important papers, the danger is that it will never get out of the classroom and we will have this variety of standards applied across the education system. I am trying to get to whether we think we need to take that away from the heads and apply it more even-handedly across the whole system.

Dr Tilling: If I can respond again in terms of outdoor science and fieldwork, there is a threat. If we were asking that question 10 years ago, we would say the local authorities and certainly the state sector would have a key role in influencing how schools applied health and safety. Originally, the 1998 documentation for health and safety came from HSE/DFE, which was then taken by local authorities and rehashed, which then went into schools. Latterly, it was taken by education visits co-ordinators, who then put another tier of bureaucracy on to this quite often. That of course is now changing. Local authorities will not have the same level of influence as they have had in the past. The question is a good one. How will health and safety be regulated in the future? I don’t think anyone knows. The detail has not been worked through.

We would make, and have made, a recommendation, which is that whatever appears-particularly for science fieldwork or fieldwork generally-it needs to be fit for purpose. The temptation might be to apply a general overall approach to health and safety. For example, a group is suggesting the Adventuremark as the new approach to health and safety standards. We would argue strongly against that because we think it is over-egging the health and safety issue. We would point people more towards Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge which is fit for purpose. It has a much lighter touch. It is a more common-sense approach to health and safety and does that wonderful thing also of combining health and safety with the quality of teaching. That has always been a problem. The two have been seen separately. One of the things we have always said in the past is, "What a wonderful opportunity to involve students, for example, in health and safety and risk education." They have been treated entirely differently, which is a missed opportunity.

Q50 Stephen Metcalfe: Is there a classroom equivalent of that mark, training or qualification?

Dr Tilling: In terms of learning outside the classroom?

Stephen Metcalfe: Yes.

Dr Tilling: There is a classroom link because one of the main criteria is the link and what happens outside with what happens in the classroom.

Q51 Stephen Metcalfe: One of the other things that struck certainly me, and I think some of my colleagues, is that there do seem to be an awful lot of schemes and programmes and variety. Do you agree that there is perhaps too much variety and too many different sources of information that make it very difficult to access? Perhaps some of that should be rationalised and we should have one central resource that collates all this information, and then it is more easily accessible so that teachers can access it and make the most of it.

Annette Smith: Are you talking specifically about health and safety in science education?

Stephen Metcalfe: Yes.

Annette Smith: Steve refers to the local authority role, which was clear up until now. The local authorities, where they still have control, still sign up to CLEAPSS and get regular updates on specific hazards which are pertinent to the classroom in general. That is really a useful service and they can act upon that. Then the schools have responsibility to act upon that. That is fine but it is changing. It is difficult to know where that will end up. Obviously you will be able to speak to those witnesses later on.

Q52 Stephen Metcalfe: Does anyone else want to add anything to that?

Paul Cohen: Only to say that I think there is a genuine point there. In preparing for this session, I was rather overwhelmed by the number of different organisations and websites that are available. I am not in a position to say whether that is confusing for teachers, but clearly it is a bit of a challenge to navigate if you are not an expert, I would have thought. The Department has just finished sponsoring something called the Getting Practical programme, which was designed to bring a lot of this stuff together around a common website, a common series of activities and common guidance. It was not exclusively on health and safety but on the generality of practical work. I think that is the direction of travel. A clearer and simpler way of accessing information is important for consistency.

Dr Tilling: I don’t want to overdo the comparisons between science and geography but I will do another one, and it is linked to the first comment about experience. It is interesting, for example, that, if you ask geography secondary teachers about the importance of health and safety as a barrier to them going out of the classroom, only 15% of them will say it is of significance. That is to do with integrality into the subject, their level of experience and the competence and confidence which they have. It is exactly the same in science. If you have a very experienced science teacher who has done this before, health and safety will not be an issue.

Q53 Stephen Metcalfe: I have just one final question. Mr Cohen, I expect this is an impossible question to answer, but in the Initial Teacher Training what is your stance on the general health and safety issue? Is it that as a teacher you should be totally risk averse, or are you encouraging people to see through the risk, see the benefit and then work out how they can deliver the benefit with the minimum amount of administration?

Paul Cohen: It is explicitly the latter. Without quoting great chunks of our guidance, can I just quote one area? It is in supporting the standard in this area to do with the out-of-school education context particularly: "Does the trainee know how to plan out-of-school learning experiences that demonstrate knowledge and awareness of health, safety and safeguarding requirements?" There is a balance there between being aware of these but also being able then to go ahead and do it and not just to say, "It’s all too difficult." That balance is very much at the heart of the standards.

Q54 Roger Williams: Good morning. A number of the members of the panel have touched upon continuing professional development. Perhaps we could tease out a few more issues. At the moment, some money is spent on recruiting and retaining teachers of science. On the basis that there probably won’t be any more resources or a large increase in resources, would that money be better spent on promoting continuing professional development and providing education out of the classroom rather than what it is spent on at the moment?

Annette Smith: That is a difficult question. There is a question of supply and demand of science teachers. Obviously the supply is less than one would hope for. The bursary schemes are put in place in order to attract people into the profession. You cannot do anything if you do not have any teachers. You need the teachers first before you can do any professional development of them. We ought to have some data on how much that has to be in order to encourage the optimum number of teachers. I am not currently aware of it. Professional development is vitally important throughout a teaching career. We would say, coming from the position of the Association for Science Education, that we look at professionalism in science teachers very seriously. We think it is the responsibility of the individual science teacher as a professional to make sure that their development is continued. We charter science teachers in order to reflect that. There is a gold standard that we have and teachers aspire to that. Having said that, it costs money to provide. The science learning centres have been supported significantly by this Government as well as the previous Government in order to help with that. They cannot be the complete answer but they go a long way towards it.

Q55 Roger Williams: I don’t know if anybody would like to add anything to that.

Dr Tilling: I can give you a number of anecdotes. I don’t think the two are separate: retention and professional development. Again, the evidence we have from longstanding relationships with teachers is that involving those teachers in the wide range of teaching and learning approaches, including the practicals and the fieldwork, is a way of maintaining that inspiration for the teachers themselves. That is to do with the fact that they do work with the students in a different way and it helps to build the relationship between the students and teachers, which then translates back into the classroom setting. Giving teachers an opportunity to develop those skills will arrive at an end point which I assume you are also wanting, which is the retention of a greater number of teachers, particularly in their early careers.

Q56 Roger Williams: Some evidence that we have had points to the fact that, even when opportunities for professional development are made available to teachers on a fully-funded basis, quite often those are not taken up. Would you like to comment about that?

Annette Smith: There has been a difficulty with teachers being able to get out of school. The "rarely cover" directive was significant as far as that was concerned. It is not just the cost of the course, and it is not actually just the cost of cover. It is the disruption to schools, especially in secondary schools where one teacher missing for a day disrupts the whole timetable, and exam timing of course-that kind of thing. What we have seen is a real focus on teachers taking up the opportunity to do exam-related professional development, which, in our view, is a kind of bolt-on at the end rather than developmental of the teacher themselves. It is fixing a problem rather than developing the teacher. We would want to see professional development across the whole piece as far as teaching is concerned.

If I can refer briefly to the Getting Practical project because it has been referred to before and it was co-ordinated by ASC, that combined professional development with a particular aspect of science teaching, that is to say practical work, and based professional development on recent research. So it was an ongoing research project as well as helping teachers to understand why they were doing practical work and to bind it in with the rest of their teaching.

Paul Cohen: If I may comment specifically on your question of the cost benefit of intervening at the beginning or during, it has to be both, because the challenge is so great. You cannot simply rely on new people coming through to deal quickly with the problems we have. Therefore, you have to do the CPD as well, quite apart from any benefits that would accrue to individuals. As Annette Smith said, it is increasingly difficult to persuade heads to release people. If I can crystal ball gaze, with the pressures on budgets that exist and are likely to exist, that will not get any easier. In our case not only do we provide those incentives to which you referred to get people in, but in terms of those people that we do offer training to we are increasingly moving to online training as a way to try and give them the help without taking them out of the classroom. It is early days but that is proving more popular than the alternative traditional model.

Q57 Roger Williams: Do we gather from that, then, that it is not a lack of appetite for professional development amongst the teachers? It is constriction or lack of opportunity provided by the schools for them to take advantage of it.

Dr Smith: Yes, I would say that most definitely. What I would love to see is the opportunity for the schools who are given budgets for CPD to be able to ring-fence some of that towards science specifically. That is a much bigger and challenging question for the future but it is something to which we should be aspiring.

Q58 Roger Williams: Some of the evidence we have received shows that technicians are more likely to take up these opportunities than teachers. Is that your experience? Are schools able to release technicians for these purposes more easily?

Annette Smith: Yes. There are technicians among our members and, practically speaking, it is easier to release a technician than it is a teacher. So, yes, they are more able to take up opportunities.

Q59 Roger Williams: Moving on from that, is this an opportunity for allowing technicians to develop skills in terms of practical opportunities and perhaps outdoor education so that they can take a lead in that-under the supervision of a teacher, obviously? Is that a missed opportunity among schools and other organisations?

Annette Smith: I think schools undervalue their technicians at their peril. They are absolutely key to practical science and outdoor science and in the classroom. They are under a lot of pressure at the moment. When schools are cutting budgets, they cut technicians before they cut teachers. As they form the bedrock of science education, they are incredibly important and we ought to concentrate on them considerably.

Dr Smith: There are certain practicals that are now available to young people-certain bio-technology practicals which are relevant to the real laboratory world-but they require very able technicians to be able to set those up, which takes several hours before the class teacher and the pupils are engaged with this process. Once again you come back to the need for supporting technicians to enable this process to happen-this supply chain, if you like.

Q60 Roger Williams: The question is, though, if we are saying that teachers are constrained in professional development, is there more of an opportunity for technicians to take a greater lead and play a more active part in these practical activities and away from the classroom?

Annette Smith: Absolutely, and bring the learning back in and share that with the teacher as well. Yes, I think that is an interesting route.

Dr Tilling: I would say that there are also ways of reducing the constraints on the teachers to enable them to take up the opportunities more than they have done in the past. Obviously we deal mainly with secondary schools. I would support very much what the others have said. The main barriers that we see in secondary schools are inflexible timetabling and "rarely covers" these days. It is not funding. It is within the behest, for example, of principals and head teachers to be more imaginative in terms of timetabling and collapsing timetables to allow teachers to take better opportunities and more use of the CPD opportunities that do exist, and also perhaps to get across those problems of departments not working together. Again, that is another barrier to us. The science departments will not work alongside the geography departments, who will not work alongside the history departments when there are wonderful opportunities for them to work together, particularly in the sorts of things we are talking about.

Q61 Roger Williams: Just to pick you up on that point, Dr Tilling, my experience with primary schools, as far as taking pupils out of the classroom is concerned, is that the teachers seem to be more able to take a cross-curricular approach because they are used to teaching many subjects, whereas the opportunities for that real broad sense of education are not so often taken advantage of with secondary schools.

Dr Tilling: Certainly, the statistic which has been quoted in the past-I am not sure whether it is true; I suspect it is-is that, for example, in primary schools, 75% of the teaching is thematic, whereas only 25% in secondary schools, even in the early stages, will be thematic. It is much more subject-based in secondary schools, which obviously then brings you into those significant barriers in terms of how you arrange timetables and crossovers between subjects and get colleagues, who sometimes are only 50 yards apart but could be 50 years away, to talk to each other and work together.

Q62 Graham Stringer: You mentioned in your answer to Roger the "rarely cover" directive. Should the Government rethink and renegotiate that, or is it a question of schools not organising themselves very well?

Annette Smith: As a directive, it was probably overly taken at face value when it first came out and schools thought that they had to react to it more than they did. If it were gently removed so that schools took appropriate action about cover in their own individual cases, that would be much better. As a blanket directive it was unhelpful.

Q63 Graham Stringer: Does it directly impact on fieldwork? I understood it was introduced where teachers were ill or couldn’t get in, but do schools apply it to covering when there is course work done as well?

Annette Smith: Schools were banking their cover so that they would have some availability when the unexpected happened. That had a detrimental effect on fieldwork and taking excursions out of the classroom.

Dr Tilling: Certainly our evidence again is that it does have a major impact on fieldwork and the numbers of groups that are able to go outside. Again, there is a contrast-and I will make it again-between geography and science because of the statutory requirements in geography to do fieldwork and, therefore, there is more leverage in being able to force the issue and go out to do field trips and fieldwork.

Q64 Graham Stringer: I will follow up on Stephen’s questions about health and safety. Does health and safety inevitably produce lots of extra paperwork or is that an urban myth?

Annette Smith: It doesn’t have to, no.

Q65 Graham Stringer: In your experience, does it? Do teachers overindulge themselves in paperwork that is unnecessary?

Annette Smith: Dr Tilling has something to say. He is nodding furiously.

Dr Tilling: I was agreeing with everything you said until the very last bit about the teachers indulging themselves. I have just gone through this with my wife, who is a special needs teacher, for example, who takes children away on residential trips in a local authority that will remain nameless. If you chart back to the original guidance in 1998, it was quite short, sharp and succinct. It has been translated into a 189-page document in the local authority, which she has to read and apply. I don’t think that is her choice as a practising teacher. That is the guidance that she has been given.

Q66 Graham Stringer: That is a really good example. Are there other occasions when teachers are too cautious and do unnecessary paperwork? The reason I ask is because there seems to be a variation in experience. Some of the evidence is that this is a huge burden and some of the evidence is, "Well, we get it done very quickly." I accept what you say about the 189-page document, but are there other occasions when teachers do look to the paperwork to cover themselves?

Dr Tilling: Again I will tackle that from the fieldwork point of view rather than practicals generally. Yes, I think it is true to say that, when we worked, for example, in inner London, health and safety was being used as an excuse not to do outdoor science and fieldwork.

Annette Smith: It also reflects teacher confidence. In your question you referred to this. If a teacher feels less confident in taking a practical or a fieldwork activity, then they will overly rely on the paperwork. They will spend too much time concerning themselves with the paperwork. A more confident teacher will have a clearer idea of what the risks are and be able to deal with them appropriately.

Q67 Graham Stringer: You have confidence in local authorities burdening teachers with paperwork. Are there any other drivers for the paperwork?

Dr Tilling: Education visits co-ordinators seem to have evolved in a significant number of schools from people who were originally set up to support these types of activities to ones who are there to very much implement health and safety to us. It varies from school to school, but certainly, as I say, since 1998 we have been creating tiers of bureaucracy. Despite the best intentions, I think certainly within schools and sometimes within EBCs there is that barrier. Quite often it is health and safety linked.

Q68 Graham Stringer: If I combine the last two answers into my last question, what then is the solution to these drivers for extra bureaucracy? How can individual teachers be better supported? That is specifically about field trips and practicals generally.

Dr Tilling: I would respond by saying, take what already exists, which is a very good and practical working model, which is the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge. It is based on a very pragmatic and practical approach and would support science fieldwork to the extent that it needs to be supported. Because it is a relatively simple, straightforward and common-sense approach, it will give the teachers the confidence to embark on it.

Annette Smith: Yes. There are quantities of easily accessible advice available. I have referred to our publications before. They are easy to read and they are practical guides. It is a question of teachers engaging with those.

Q69 Stephen McPartland: We are running out of time so I will be quite brief. Do you believe that no practical would be better than a bad or a boring practical lesson?

Annette Smith: That is a very good question. There is an expectation with young people that science will include an element of practical, so no practical at all would be extraordinarily disappointing to young people who see science as having a component of practical work. There is no need for it to be boring or pointless. It can enhance the learning as nothing else can in science. Going back to where we were talking about Getting Practical, that bound in the learning in an extraordinary and wonderful way with the activity that was going on.

Paul Cohen: Obviously we want to avoid a situation where it is that choice. I don’t think it is that choice in the vast majority of cases. Your point refers to the need to ensure there is a quality experience. There is plenty of evidence from Ofsted and bodies such as those represented here that poor-quality practical work is of very little, if any, educational value and can be off-putting. There was a question earlier about the degree of demonstration. Demonstration is an important aspect. If it is demonstration and no involvement by the young people, then that can be off-putting as well. We are very clear in the standards in the CPD that we support that quality has to be at the cutting edge.

Q70 Stephen McPartland: The reason why I ask is because we have had a submission, and one child was saying effectively, when they wrote in to us, that they had to do practical work with soap and water; it was very repetitive, and they had to wear safety goggles, so it was very dull and very boring.

Paul Cohen: They might be better off not doing that.

Q71 Stephen McPartland: Exactly. That switched them off from science. That leads me on to another point. Dr Smith, you said earlier on that the majority of children are not particularly interested in the theory side of it; they want to get hands-on and be involved in the practical and the exciting stuff. Do you feel that teacher and technician-led demonstrations are positive or negative?

Dr Smith: They can be very positive. In a way they are almost something the young people could aspire to be able to do themselves.

Q72 Stephen McPartland: Do you think they could replace practicals?

Dr Smith: If they are given a rational explanation as to why they are not able to do that particular practical themselves, whether it is a safety consideration or a lack of resources, then the young people can think, "Okay, that’s fair enough. That is a reasonable explanation. What can I do that is related to that demonstration? How can I work with similar materials?", maybe.

Q73 Stephen McPartland: Do you think there has been a move towards these teacher and technician-led demonstrations because it is much faster and easier to do than it is to allow the children to do the practicals themselves?

Dr Smith: I would hope not. On whether or not that is directly true, I would reserve comment.

Q74 Stephen McPartland: Would anyone else like to comment, in your experience?

Annette Smith: I do not have any figures for it, but I think Dr Smith refers to a really important point, which is to set the practical, whether it be demonstration or hands-on, in the context of the learning. A lot of talk and discussion has to take place beforehand in order to fit the practical to what is being learned, to the learning objectives and to the theories that are being demonstrated, and then to look at what has happened and talk about that afterwards. That is a really important part of it. In the soap and water experiment that you are talking about, clearly the young person who responded had not got the reason why he or she was doing that. They had not got the understanding of what that was showing or caught up at the end with what happened and why that happened. That is a clear example of a missed opportunity.

Q75 Stephen McPartland: Do you think there should be a ratio set of the minimum proportion of practical to theory lessons?

Annette Smith: Not really, no. There ought to be an understanding that practical forms an important part of science, but to set criteria like that is a bit difficult.

Dr Smith: If you set a minimum amount, there is always the tendency, certainly, for some people to think, "Right, I only have to do 10 practicals this year", for example, when there is the potential to do 20 or 40 or however many your lessons allow. There is no reason why every single science lesson could not have a practical component within it.

Dr Tilling: A lot of the practicals and certainly fieldwork these days are driven in secondary schools by assessments and exams. The nature of the practicals is sometimes driven by the assessment methodology. Again, there are contrasts with other subjects that can be made. GCSE for science in terms of fieldwork, for example, is a black hole. It is a neuro-inhibitor. All the practicals tend to be there to deaden the nerve senses, in comparison to geography. For example, in controlled assessment in geography, the students will be asked to make a comparison of the upper and lower regions of a river. It is that broad. They will go away and study the river. The comparison that is made in science, for example, might be a choice chamber experiment over 30 or 40 minutes with woodlice or earthworms. There is a different level of intellectual investment and the type of hands-on work that is going on. That is a critical issue for the whole subject. That then comes back to how important this type of approach is in the curriculum generally.

Paul Cohen: I agree with Dr Tilling. The answer rests in the curriculum and the means of assessment. Getting that right and having the time available, whether it is for the preparation that we talked about or for the sort of open-ended type of experiment in practical work, is critical. That is probably the way to go rather than trying to prescribe set amounts of time, which is not only counter to the way in which the school system is moving generally but also runs the risk, as Dr Tilling said, of going down to the lowest level and then saying you have done what is necessary.

Dr Tilling: Can I come back to your very first question, which was "Is it worth doing if it is bad?" I would say if you have one in five GCSE scientists going outside the classroom, which appears to be the situation we are in at the moment, things would have to be very, very bad to not take the other four out of five out and try something.

Q76 Stephen McPartland: My final question is this. One of the themes we have had is that the curriculum is too full to make time for practicals. I could ask you what we should remove from the curriculum, and every single one of you would give me a different answer. If I slightly rephrase it, do you feel that there should be a higher weighting of marks for practicals within the science GCSE so that teachers can devote more time to them? At the moment I think only about 10% of the marks go towards practical lessons, which suggests that you would spend 90% of your time doing the theory to get the best marks.

Dr Smith: Again, it is the way in which it is delivered. If you have the criteria set like that, what you potentially end up with is very staged and very directed practicals that are not open-ended, that are not as engaging for the young people, and so you counter what you are trying to achieve by saying, "We will reward you more for doing practical work but we will give you a very dull practical to do." The two are very much a contrast with each other.

Annette Smith: I absolutely agree. It is to do with the quality of the assessment rather than the quantity. With practical work and what we have called in the past, and what we still call at the moment, "How Science Works" and "The Nature of Science", it is not a trivial task to assess that part of the science curriculum. A great deal more concentration needs to go on in that area in order to get it right and in order to drive interesting and engaging practicals that support the learning.

Dr Smith: It is about the learning that can be achieved by having a particularly good practical that maybe is not assessed, and the learning that comes from it and the understanding and the turning that theory into life for the young people. That is a value you cannot put a number on and you cannot quantify.

Stephen McPartland: Thank you very much.

Chair: Stephen, you had a very quick final question.

Q77 Stephen Metcalfe: Yes; thank you for indulging me, Chair. Are we right to think there is great value in practical science, and therefore do you all individually agree that we need to do more of it in the classroom? If so, what are you individually in your organisations doing to promote that and cut through some of the barriers that we have come across in our evidence? Could I ask you to be brief? I know it is a broad question, but I have snuck in at the end there.

Paul Cohen: I do think it is very valuable. All the evidence suggests that it is valuable. I also think, as has been said consistently on the panel today, it is important that the quality is right. That matters more than the quantity. Therefore, I would advise that Ofsted focus even more than they are doing at the moment on looking at the quality and calling schools that are not up to scratch on the quality of what they provide.

Annette Smith: The reason for doing practical work is so that young people can relate the science theory that they learn in the classroom to the real world. They can do that significantly outside the classroom, but it can also be done inside the classroom. If we want young people to really engage with science, good-quality, thoughtful, well-planned and well-prepared practical work is the way to do it. It is absolutely vital to science education, I feel.

Q78 Stephen Metcalfe: What is your organisation doing to practically promote it and cut through some of the barriers?

Annette Smith: We have come to the end of the Getting Practical project, which was supported by Government. There is some legacy from that, which we are continuing. This is the idea that we are going to engage with research and professional development and present some solutions to some of the barriers that have been facing practical work in the past. We also support science laboratory technicians and all teachers, and have done for over 100 years now.

Dr Smith: Practical work needs to be engaging, inspiring and exciting; and it needs to be a fundamental part of the science curriculum, unquestionably. What are we doing about it? We have concern about the amount of resources available in the classroom to support practical science, whether from a cost or a storage point of view in small rural primary schools. We provide a Free-to-loan Resources Kit Club where schools from Norfolk, Suffolk and into Cambridgeshire come to us to borrow kit boxes which are free. It works like a lending library. This works, but it needs to be expanded. Obviously it is not going to work asking a teacher to travel 200 miles to borrow one kit box. We need more of those around the country. We provide masterclass programmes. In two weeks’ time we have 26 teachers currently signed up to attend a day of high-quality talks about reproductive technologies. This is a subject that teachers have said they would like to be updated in, and that is the basis of our masterclass programme, responding to what teachers ask for in terms of their science knowledge and development. We think that linking teachers with scientists, both in primary and in secondary, can support their confidence and the need to keep teachers up to date in modern times.

Dr Tilling: If I can give two quick responses, one is the obvious one. We are doing as much as we can to give practical support. We will continue to run field courses for 600-plus secondary schools. We have started a centre in east London to try and make fieldwork accessible to inner-city schools, where again there has been an issue. We continue to produce 150,000 publications a year to support those who cannot come to the centres. I think the most critical intervention the FSC is trying to make at the moment is a surprising one for an organisation which traditionally has not been involved in campaigning. We are spending an awful lot more time in trying to get the words into curricula and into places that matter. Again, I will come back to geography, although I promised not to. Those words matter because, once they are in there, everything else starts to flow from them. The Ofsted inspections, the senior support, the resources, the intellectual investments and how to do it better have all flown from those simple words in the curriculum documents saying, "You must do it." Without those we will continue, as we have done over the last 25 years, to look at a problem rather than a positive development.

Chair: Thank you very much to all four members of the panel. It has been extremely interesting.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Beth Gardner, Chief Executive, Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, Professor Graham Hutchings FRS, Chair, Science Community Representing Education (SCORE), Sir Roland Jackson, Chief Executive, British Science Association, and Steve Jones, Director, Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services (CLEAPSS), gave evidence.

Q79 Chair: I welcome the four of you here. For the record it would be helpful if you could introduce yourselves.

Beth Gardner: I am Beth Gardner, the Chief Executive of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, which is a national charity responsible for promoting learning outside the classroom.

Professor Hutchings: I am Graham Hutchings. I am Chair of SCORE, which is a collaboration of five organisations: the Association of Science Education, the Society of Biology, the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Institute of Physics.

Sir Roland Jackson: I am Roland Jackson. I am Chief Executive of the British Science Association.

Steve Jones: I am Steve Jones. I am a Director of CLEAPSS, the School Science Service.

Q80 Chair: Thank you very much. Some of you at least heard the previous witness session. Science departments tend to be considerably more expensive to run than an English department. Is there any way that schools can be encouraged to see more value in their science department? Don’t fight over it.

Sir Roland Jackson: That is really interesting, because that is a question of what one values and a question of culture and how one thinks about science. Listening to the evidence just now, I was particularly struck by the final exchanges this morning and some of the evidence that has been put before you already. What I think we are missing in the science curriculum that gets very much to the heart of practical science is that science is a fundamentally creative activity. Scientists are creative people, and we absolutely need that creativity for social development and for economic growth. We need people, therefore, to be scientists and to understand what it is like to be creative as a scientist. We expect it with art. We expect it with geography, as we have just heard. We don’t seem to expect it and value it with science. I would like to see schools, and maybe our society as a whole, valuing that creativity in science more and following through to the logical conclusion, which is that an essential part of education in science should be opportunities for young people to be creative in their science. That, for me, is an important aspect of the sort of practical work that we should be seeing in schools.

Professor Hutchings: I am going to make a joint point to that in the sense that what you are pointing to is a sort of tension that exists throughout education. In the higher education sector, you have exactly the same tension as to where resources go, because resources are not ring-fenced in any particular way. It is easier to think that you should not put financial resources into a particular subject because you can have less teachers in one subject and more resources put into practical work. That is always going to be a tension when you devolve budgets in a particular way. That is going to be a result that will go through for some time. We are all passionate about making sure, as Roland was saying, that children are enthused about science and they get that. Following on from a point that was made in the previous session as to whether there should be a minimum level, I do not think there should be a minimum level but there should be a requirement that this is in the National Curriculum and then it has to follow. The point I would make is that you are alluding to the tension and it is a real tension.

Beth Gardner: I do not think we are the best placed organisation to comment on the cost of different departments within schools. One key point I would like to make is that learning outside the classroom for science or any other subject does not have to be expensive. A lot of the time we forget about the vast resources we have in the school grounds and in the local community. We would really like to encourage schools to think about those as part of a frequent, continuous and progressive approach to learning outside the classroom which should be going right across the school and integrated into the curriculum. That stops the one-off, expensive end-of-term school trips that tend to happen in schools now.

Steve Jones: I was interested in the question at the outset because it implies that they perhaps don’t see that they are getting value for money at the moment. I missed the earlier part; so perhaps that has come from there. It is not my experience that all senior leadership teams think their science department is very expensive and they are not getting value for money. Some see it as an asset and think that they do get value for money from it. I suspect that very much depends on what happens in the classrooms in those science departments and whether what you are getting is really value for money or not. We mentioned that we have a side issue. There are techniques-we are very fond of micro-scale chemistry, for example-that we refer to in the submission. There are ways of keeping a handle on the costs without reducing the practical activities done in school.

Q81 Chair: Do you think all schools understand that, in your experience?

Steve Jones: Understand?

Chair: That you can keep costs down.

Steve Jones: No, probably not. Probably an increasing proportion of science technicians understand the value of those activities. Particularly in chemistry we have a tradition of, dare I say it, bucket chemistry in this country where everything has to be done with very large volumes of substances all the time, which is not necessarily true in fact. CLEAPSS is on a mission at the moment to try and convince more people that there is value in smaller-scale activities.

Q82 Stephen Mosley: You are talking about bucket chemistry, and then you move on to me as a chemistry graduate. As you can probably imagine, a great many of the submissions we have received say that one of the key factors of successful science teaching is a good teacher.

Steve Jones: Yes.

Stephen Mosley: I guess you would all agree on that.

Steve Jones: Yes.

Q83 Stephen Mosley: The Royal Society reported in 2007 that, when there was a good match between the teacher skills and the curriculum that they were teaching, the quality of the teacher was more likely to be assessed as good, very good or excellent by Ofsted. Does that mean that one of the problems with practicals is that we do not have the right teachers in the right jobs?

Professor Hutchings: If you look at secondary education, there is a shortage of specialist teachers in a number of subjects. That leads to confidence issues. The answer to the question is, yes, we do not have enough specialist teachers to teach the subject in a particular way. It means that people do not have the confidence to deliver the level of practical. Consequently, if they do not have the confidence, they are not going to go through with it, to some extent. The Institute of Physics recognised that there is a shortage of 500 specialist physics teachers, for example. That is a huge resource deficit that takes some years to build up. Even if we started training lots of physics teachers now, it would take a long time for that to go through. There is a similar shortage, but not to the same extent, in chemistry. We have very good teachers. It is just that we need more specialist teachers in the right positions.

Sir Roland Jackson: There is another dimension. That is right, but there is an issue with the experience and qualifications of teachers with respect to what I have described as this real open-ended creative work, which I think is the essence of science and which we should be offering to our young people. That does require some experience of doing that research oneself. Throughout our education system-and I am including universities in this-I am not sure that our science students throughout that process get enough exposure unless they go on and do a PhD. I do think that is a concern. I think we have got the balance wrong on our emphasis between understanding the solid theory and facts, which is essential for any grounding, but then having that confidence and ability to recognise that at the frontiers everything is uncertain but actually you can explore this creatively. That is what being a scientist is about. As I said before, that is where our future economic growth and prospects are going to come from. We need people who can do that.

Steve Jones: I would second that. There is possibly an over-emphasis on the transmission of knowledge rather than the understanding of what science is like when you do it. Practical work is critical to that because it offers you an opportunity to experience what it is like to inquire about something. A lot of children learn about science but do not necessarily learn what it means to be a scientist. You mentioned creativity earlier on. If you haven’t done that bit, that is the bit where the creativity takes place. So you end up with a rather flat view that it is about acquiring a lot of knowledge that we already have rather than creating new knowledge, which is what it is really all about.

Beth Gardner: There is a gap in how we support our teachers and how we train and develop them. We heard earlier from the TDA, and my colleague was talking about the indicators within the Initial Teacher Training curriculum. The indicator only expects Initial Teacher trainees to have planned something practical. It does not expect them to go and carry that out. This is a case of expecting learning outside the classroom to happen from planning inside the classroom, and that is just going all the way through. If we looked at those indicators and supported Initial Teacher trainees to think about the practical elements of their teaching, how they can be very inspirational and how they can lead to increased attainment, that would go some way towards achieving the goals that we want.

Professor Hutchings: I would like to make an additional point. It is not just having sufficient teachers. There is a deficit of technicians. Without the technical support, the teachers will not have the time, the ability or resources to do the experiments and the demonstrations. It is critical that it is technical support and the teachers together. That is the key issue.

Steve Jones: We are very keen on supporting technical support. It is one of the major functions of CLEAPSS. I have brought the papers from committees from five years ago and from five years before. The story about school science technicians is depressingly repetitive in those. They are, generally speaking, rather undervalued and possibly seriously underpaid. They often work term time only. They do not have any opportunity to do any work inside the holidays to get on top of situations. Without that technician support, it really undermines the teacher’s ability and willingness to do different, varied practical work. I would not say it is unique but it is a distinctive feature of science education in this country that there is proper technical support.

At the moment, one of the things that CLEAPSS is alarmed about is that technicians tend to get lumped in with support staff in general in schools. At the moment schools are under pressure to cut all sorts of things, including support staff. We have had an increased number of calls to the helpline from concerned technicians whose total technician support time in school is being cut quite significantly in some cases, which, against a backdrop of fighting to keep the practical component in the science, is quite concerning at the moment.

Q84 Stephen Mosley: You do raise quite an interesting point. One of the things that came out of the evidence we have seen is that there is a belief that teachers do not really have the time to do the professional development. We had one or two suggestions about whether we could use field trips to allow teachers to do CPD at the same time as the kids were doing the field trip, and using those sorts of opportunities. You have raised something that I do not think has been raised all that clearly in the evidence, which is that you also have the technicians. If they are only there in term time, they actually have a huge amount of time outside that which if the schools and education system moved to allow them to do some CPD during the holidays-

Steve Jones: The technicians?

Stephen Mosley: Yes; the technicians.

Steve Jones: We have tried that, and the turn-out was very poor. Generally speaking, technicians are only paid to work in term time. It is a way of cutting the costs in schools. They are not paid to work outside term time. That is not true across the piece but it is quite a common model. There is a possibility there. About three quarters of our training is taken up by technicians. The courses that we offer for teachers about "Exciting and Engaging" practicals, "Surely that’s Banned" or "Safe and Exciting" demonstrations don’t recruit an audience. They get cancelled all the time, because the teachers can’t, or won’t, come out of school on the courses. At the moment we are trying a twilight model to try and get round this, where we will deliver a two to two-and-a-half-hour session to an audience of teachers at the end of a day. That is not a great moment to be having your CPD session when you are exhausted after a day’s teaching, but we tend to get away with it with ours because they are very hands-on and practical. You come to a session and you do science for two and a half hours rather than sitting around talking about it. That does work. We can make that work functionally for us by tagging it on to whole-day training courses that are for technicians who can get out of school and come on them. We have only done that for the last six to eight months, but I think that might be an interesting avenue. It is not an ideal solution but it would produce more training for teachers on practical activities.

Q85 Stephen Mosley: Throughout the responses you have given, you are saying there is recruiting people in the right place and making sure that people going to university have the interest they can then pass on; but you also have the CPD side of things. Is there a balance between the two? I know if I say which is more important you are going to say both. I will ask that question and hopefully I will not get a "both" response.

Steve Jones: I don’t think it is possible to say anything other than "both". The context in which the folks are working is changing, so to keep up to date CPD is very important. Queries to our helpline have gone up quite a lot in biology in the last couple of years because of increased use of unfamiliar areas, particularly in A-level biology specifications where teachers and technicians do not have the skills needed to deliver those new areas of the curriculum. You need CPD for that. You cannot build that in at the outset. Unfortunately, you do need both.

Professor Hutchings: Can I make a point? What enthuses children is enthusiastic teachers. Enthusiastic teachers come from people who have been continually challenged throughout their career development. It has to be an integral part, but you have to recruit the right teacher at the start. The right teacher has to be trained at the start. We addressed that in the previous submission of evidence.

Q86 Stephen Mosley: From experience, do you find that those enthusiastic teachers are people who have had an enthusiasm from a young age and gone through school and university looking at the subject, or is it the case that you can teach an old dog new tricks? Can you teach a 40-year old who has always specialised in English to suddenly become enthusiastic about chemistry?

Professor Hutchings: It would be an interesting experiment, and we are talking about an experimental subject so it would be worth doing. I don’t know. If they have O-level chemistry-going back that far-it is always possible, but they have to have the drive to want to do it and the confidence to be able to pick up the chemicals and do it, or whatever aspect of science it is. I would not rule it out but it would be a very brave experiment to start.

Beth Gardner: We have done a lot of work looking at the barriers to learning outside the classroom. They are the typical barriers that are cited all the time: cost, time, health and safety, and bureaucracy. When you drill down beneath those barriers it is quite interesting. You can get two very similar schools with very similar catchments and similar resources. One will be very good at learning outside the classroom and one will not have embraced it at all. When you look at drilling down, it is purely down to the motivations of teachers. There has been some work done by King’s College London looking at these motivations. It is whether teachers have been exposed to that throughout their curriculum and throughout their ITT. Whatever they have done in the past, that tends to be when they are more motivated. But we also have experience of when you can really enthuse teachers and they really get it and change their practices.

Q87 Stephen McPartland: We all accept that enthusiastic teachers enthuse children. We all remember a good teacher. Maybe one of the barriers to outside learning is that there is this huge myriad of support groups and organisations that will help teachers do everything that they want to do when it comes to science. I wonder whether there are many teachers who are confused with the amount of information and support groups that want to help. It is almost as if there is too much out there. Would any of you agree?

Sir Roland Jackson: There are a lot of organisations, especially, I guess, third sector organisations, who feel very passionately about particular areas of science and want to make those opportunities available to young people. There can very much be a confusion, but there has been a growing recognition over a number of years that all the organisations-and we would be one of them-who seek to work with schools and offer these opportunities need to work much more effectively together. We have done a number of things over the past few years to try to do that and present a more coherent picture to schools, colleges and teachers.

Over the last few years, for example, the STEM Directories project has brought together in a very accessible way, both in printed form and online, a searchable directory of who is offering what and where. Also the various groups who support what you might call enrichment activity in science have got together in a big way to produce the Big Bang Fair that some of you may be aware of and work together to promote the National Science and Engineering Competition. The network of STEM points funded through STEM Net-and the contract is just being re-awarded at the moment-are intended to be local centres for teachers and schools that essentially provide information and are there as a content form for information for schools and teachers. We are trying, and we recognise that there is potentially a complex picture.

Professor Hutchings: In the case of SCORE, the partner organisations-the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics and the Society of Biology-will offer specialist advice. I would have thought they would be a first port of call for specialist teachers or those teachers interested in a particular subject. Thus, if you were interested in chemistry, you would go to that website and see what there is. They are extremely effective in dissemination of information. I agree that if you put anything into Google you are going to get a whole range of things coming up, so you have to be selective. I think teachers know where to go and get that information.

Professor Hutchings: I think the richness is a real strength in this country but it does require a bit of co-operation as well.

Beth Gardner: Could I answer by coming back to an earlier point that you raised? Looking at the different quality marks that are available, that was one of the reasons behind setting up the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge. It is one badge across all of the sectors. It is very important for science, but it also stretches across cultural activities, expeditions, adventurous activities and natural environment work. It is one badge, making it easily recognisable for teachers looking at the quality of education as well as risk- effectiveness. That is one way we are really trying to work with all of the sectors to make things a lot simpler for teachers and others working with young people.

A second example is in the natural environment sector, where we are partnering on the Natural Connections project with Natural England, which is being supported by DEFRA. Again that is bringing together all sorts of different providers working within the natural environment sector, making offerings to schools to help them get young people out to do practical science experiments and other things. We are trying to have a coherent offer by the whole sector, because schools have told us that things are quite disparate out there, they are being approached by all sorts of different people and it is confusing. There are mechanisms afield to try and address that.

Q88 Stephen McPartland: It is fantastic that the science community wants to be so engaged in learning in our schools, which we all welcome. As you have mentioned, Sir Roland and Professor Hutchings, there does need to be a greater coherence. Do you feel that somebody should be responsible for pushing that coherence or should it just be up to the groups themselves to co-operate? In our experience as Members of Parliament, we have large numbers of interest groups who are very passionate about particular interests but they are often not too keen to co-operate with one another. They just want their view and their point heard.

Sir Roland Jackson: I don’t think anyone could do that, because these groups are so individual, they are autonomous, and the funding comes from all sorts of different organisations. Some is from public money, but a lot is from charitable sector money or even from the private sector. So it has to be a collective effort, and I do think people are lining up behind things that will enable them to do so. If you take the CREST support programme which we run, supporting creative work in schools, we partner through that with a lot of other schemes like the Engineering Education scheme and the Nuffield Science bursaries to help to provide a common structure and offering to schools. I mentioned the Big Bang. That is a really huge national collaboration. Over the next few years that will have even more effect on the way that people work collectively together. I do think it is our responsibility. I don’t think anyone can do it for us.

Professor Hutchings: SCORE is an example where five organisations have come together. You have the chemists, the physicists, the biologists, the schoolteachers and the Royal Society, which overarches the whole scientific community of the UK. We are pooling our expertise and speaking with one voice on education. We produce research reports and there is a website that is there. Maybe we have to get that message further into the community. We are certainly trying to do that. Yes, I think it is possible.

Steve Jones: There is a very concrete outcome from that. Over the last two years a small project was funded by Government called Getting Practical. Has that been mentioned so far? That focused on trying to sharpen up practical work. That was a very cost-effective way of having a focus for that area of work. In the light of some of the other things that have been said, I am often struck by the fact that there is a lot of co-ordination around enrichment, enhancement and additionality. It is a difficult thing for me to say-I don’t know what my colleagues will say back in the office-but CLEAPSS deals with the day-to-day, what-you-do-in-the-classroom practical activities. Those do not get much of a press because it is assumed that everybody knows how to do that. My biggest concern is that those things that we take for granted are in danger of disappearing out of the system because people no longer know how to do them. There might be some call for co-ordination around a focus on getting good quality basic practical work going on.

The Getting Practical project had that possibility. It had a theoretical basis. It had an argument for a methodology for looking at the purpose of practical work, but it also acted as a focus for all sorts of organisations promoting practical activities in science. That made quite a difference for a relatively small investment.

Q89 Chair: Sir Roland, you mentioned the Big Bang. Why is it that the Big Bang is dominated by private schools?

Sir Roland Jackson: I am not sure it is dominated by private schools.

Q90 Chair: I had this discussion with Sir Anthony Cleaver a couple of years ago when it was in Manchester. The exhibition was overwhelmingly private schools. There was one very good grammar school or secondary school in Edinburgh, I think it was, that had a very good exhibit, but there were hardly any state schools.

Sir Roland Jackson: I hesitate to question that-and I can give the Committee the evidence if you like-but I don’t think that is entirely correct. I would be fairly sure that private schools would be over-represented, but I don’t think to the massive exclusion of the state sector. You are talking here about the young people who were demonstrating their projects as part of the National Science and Engineering Competition. The interesting thing is that in all the years so far, and it is three years now of the National Science and Engineering Competition, we have not had a winner from the private sector. They have all been from the state sector, which is interesting. Where teachers in the state sector are able to do this work, and there are many very excellent ones-I point, for example, to Becky Parker, whom you will know at Simon Langton Grammar, who is an absolute model in the state sector-they do it very well. If some of them can do it, I do not see why all of them cannot do it in principle.

Q91 Chair: That is an important point. Comparatively, I suspect, there is still a shortage of entrants from the state sector.

Sir Roland Jackson: Comparatively, I think that is true, but I would not want you to think that there is a massive over-emphasis on the private sector. I really don’t think there is, and we work very hard to encourage state schools to participate.

Q92 Stephen Metcalfe: We are looking at the barriers to practical teaching. One of the areas that my colleague Stephen McPartland picked up on was how crowded the curriculum has become. We have anecdotal evidence that between Years 7 to 9, which are the first three years of secondary school experience, people get a real thirst for science. There is plenty of practical work going on and they look forward to doing it towards the end of their secondary school career, and, yet, in Years 10 and 11 they find the stuff that really engages them, the practical side of things, has diminished somewhat. Is that an assessment that you recognise? Do you accept that the curriculum is very crowded and, therefore, time is one of the major barriers to practical teaching?

Steve Jones: That would match what people to whom I have spoken have said. In a previous incarnation I did a lot of pupil interviews. If you interview Year 10 and Year 11 pupils they would often say, "Yes, we did a lot of practical work in Years 7, 8 and 9, but we haven’t done anywhere near as much now." I would say that is a fair assertion about what goes on in a lot of secondary schools. The more interesting question is why does that happen? You need to unpick the notion of a crowded curriculum and understand the features inside it. I suspect there is not a simple answer to that.

Q93 Stephen Metcalfe: Could we start unpicking it?

Steve Jones: If you halved the content, so you took out half the concepts, would that double the amount of practical work? I don’t know; I am not convinced. It would be an interesting experiment to try, because there are other issues about the extent to which colleagues understand how to make effective use of the practical work. Even if they had the time to do it, they might do more practical work, but would that practical work be effective when they did it? We would have to look at a number of features adding up to that effect, but I think what you have described is a real reflection of what happens. There tends to be more practical work in the lower part of the school.

Professor Hutchings: Time is only one of the factors. You can say that is one of the most important factors, possibly, but there is also the availability and the quality of the labs. In the evidence that the Royal Society of Chemistry have put forward, some years ago they found that 25% of labs were substandard. In 2006, when they went back and looked again, it had got worse, so the quality of the labs is important. As we mentioned before, the confidence of the teacher is important. Doing practicals at the initial level of science is easier to do than doing practicals at more senior levels of science. As you go up through A-level and into university, it gets more and more difficult. The experiments you need to do to enthuse the children require more confidence of the person and more ability of the person. Time is one of the factors, but it is all of those things coming together. It comes back to the confidence of the teacher, which comes back to specialism and having the right teachers there.

Q94 Stephen Metcalfe: One of the bits of evidence that we have had from some of the students who have communicated with us is that, for some, they do not find the practicals very engaging at all and feel that they could get the same amount of effect from watching a YouTube video or looking at it in a book. If we accept that there is a relatively crowded curriculum to get to GCSE, should practical work for those students be optional, or do you think there is a vital part for practical work to play?

Professor Hutchings: It is crucial. Science is an experimental subject. It is born out of experiment. Yes, you have to have the theory. You come up with a hypothesis and you test it experimentally. You cannot have people opting out mentally in that way. Even at the most senior end of the subject where one does computational experimentation-you can do a lot of things by computation that save you doing lots of experiments; industry will tell you about this, and this is very important-you still have to understand how the experiments work. You cannot model things unless you know how it works. It is not an option. It has to be.

Sir Roland Jackson: It is also important to be clear on what practical work is important and when. From your evidence as well and some of the earlier discussions, there are many different legitimate purposes of practical work. Different types of practical work are appropriate in different situations. It is the balance that matters. It is the balance between the way a teacher uses the practical work to deepen understanding of the theory; the way they will demonstrate something that could not be seen otherwise to give access to phenomena that cannot otherwise be described; and then the sort of more extended work I have been talking about of being a real scientist. They are all different. The way in which teachers in schools will value them will also depend to some extent on how they are assessed and what is assessed. Obviously, we come back to curriculum and assessment again because that, ultimately, drives what teachers do.

Q95 Stephen Metcalfe: Where should the responsibility lie for making sure that happens? Is that with the teacher or the senior management within a school? How do we ensure that students are receiving enough good quality practical teaching?

Steve Jones: In a school context, the power of involving your senior leadership team in understanding what a quality outcome would look like in science is immeasurable. The deliverers might ultimately be the science teachers and they might work under the direction of the head of department, but, ultimately, if your school senior leadership team understands what a good practical would look like, and expects it to be delivered, then that is the lever that would work in a school. One of the challenges is that I am not convinced that enough school senior leadership teams are sufficiently aspirational about what you could get out of your science department. Going round as a person who gets badged as a person who knows something about science, if you go into any head teacher or deputy head teacher conference environment, at some point someone will come up to you and say, "Oh, you’re a scientist, aren’t you? I’ve got a bit of a problem with my science department." If I had a fiver for every time I was told that, I would be in the Bahamas at the moment. They see their science department as a problem and not an asset. Trying to get them to look at it as the asset that it should be is a very important thing and should not be underestimated.

Q96 Chair: That is an important observation. Can I just push you a little further on it? How is that going to be addressed as we give more independence to schools?

Steve Jones: I am not really qualified to comment on that. It will be more challenging to do that, because your mechanisms for engaging with senior leaders as a group are possibly not as clear-cut in a system consisting of a lot of independent schools.

Q97 Chair: In terms of any attempt by Ministers to further devolve responsibility directly to the schools, the only way to address that problem is to make it conditional on handing that responsibility to the school. Is that fair?

Steve Jones: Yes, and then you need a mechanism to do that as well.

Professor Hutchings: You would need to add clear guidance as to what was expected and what would be models of inspirational leadership at that level.

Steve Jones: But it needs to be aspirational. The problem with those levers is that they end up being punitive, and the impact of measures that measure this does not necessarily give the result that we really wanted, which was better experiences for pupils in science classes. Some of the best-intentioned pieces of leverage have resulted in some of the most bizarre curriculum models that have not benefited children at all.

Beth Gardner: Freeing up time in the curriculum for teachers to do what they do best and to teach is absolutely great, and we are very supportive of the Government’s move to do that. What we are concerned about is the focus on the "what" and not the "how". If you do not put some thought into the "how", then teachers will just teach how they have always taught, and if they have always taught in a non-practical way that is just going to get worse. To encourage more learning outside the classroom and more practical activity, we need to be putting some thought into that "how", and some guidance, some really good exemplars and some aspirations there would be helpful to support schools to be able to do that.

Sir Roland Jackson: We are quite interested at the moment in the Extended Project Qualification, which I know at the moment is optional and sits outside mainstream subjects and, in a sense, is non-subject specific, but it offers quite an opportunity for science. I understand that Edexcel are looking at the CREST framework that we use to support science projects through EPQs at Level 3. The danger of putting one’s eggs in that basket is that, if you look at things that are outside mainstream curricula, I still think the message and the values coming through the science curriculum ought to be valuing this creative aspect of science more than they currently do.

Q98 Stephen Mosley: Talking about the curricula, one of the other issues that people have raised with us is that the examinations do not put much of an emphasis on practical skills either. There is a quote from a child here: "Exams don’t test practical skills and any important procedure examined can be learnt from a book." Another one says: "The exams were all about jumping through hoops, and if I’d known how stupid and time-consuming the coursework was going to be, I might have chosen another subject altogether." Do you consider that practical work should be formally assessed?

Steve Jones: It depends what you mean by "practical work" in that. If you mean, "Can you use a thermometer to measure the temperature?", the history of science teaching is littered with attempts to assess science practical skills in different ways, some of which were monumentally formulaic and unsuccessful. Do I think there ought to be a component that assesses how science is done? The answer is yes, because I am rather cynical. If it is not assessed it will not happen. Years of working in the National Strategy focused on the fact that, if it is not going to be measured, it disincentivises people working on it. However, I would possibly observe that there is a limited range of techniques and approaches available at the moment to do this successfully. There was a conference-I wish I could remember when it was-when people got together to talk about how you might assess procedure: understanding how science is actually done. It is not easy and not obvious how to do that effectively.

Sir Roland Jackson: It may be that science teachers and curriculum developers need to look a little more outside science. Some of the techniques that we are talking about here are perfectly well understood by geography teachers that we have seen and perfectly well understood by, for example, art teachers. It ought not to be beyond the wit of assessors to think about rather more open-ended techniques that allow people to demonstrate their scientific abilities creatively and not just the way that they can understand the theory. I do think that should be a part of the assessment. It is different types.

Steve Jones: It is. As a concrete example of that, there is a very laudable attempt in the latest round of GCSEs to construct the assessment of "coursework" in such a way that it models a proper scientific inquiry process for pupils. They have an issue to inquire around. They get an opportunity to do some research beforehand to find out what has already been done and what is going on. Then they plan a mechanism, a way of going about gathering some evidence. In theory, they are then supposed to carry that out. In practice, there is an option at that point in the process for the school teacher to say, "That technique isn’t safe", or more likely, "There are now 25 different techniques here; I can’t support that", or, "We don’t have the apparatus", and substitute a standard method either provided by the school or the examining body. Then the rest of the assessment process is based largely on the outcomes from that standard method.

In that system, the opportunity exists for a child to really experience what it is like to be given a context, find out some stuff, plan a bit of an inquiry, do it out, collect some evidence and think about how good the evidence is. But, in reality, I suspect that may not be how it turns out because of the practicality of allowing them to follow it through. If we were a bit more open about the way that assessment was run, there would be less of a demand to close it down to that standard method. There is a real tension between being able to nail down that they have definitely done this and it is worth the marks and the opportunity to really follow their own chain of thought.

In a meeting I was in recently, one person said that they might allow their top sets to follow through their own methods. If you think about that for a few minutes, the children who most need to follow through their own methods are not the top sets. The kids who find it slightly harder need to do what they plan so they can talk about how well it went and not do what somebody else told them to do instead, because they lose the whole sense of the inquiry in that. I am sorry, but it is a bit of a hobby-horse at the moment we are having.

Professor Hutchings: If I can-

Steve Jones: -get a word in edgeways.

Professor Hutchings: No, I am not going to get a word in edgeways; it is too difficult. If I can add something, what you have both been saying is that you need to embed experimental work in with theory. Part of the question was an assessment of it as though it is separate, and I do not think it is separate. It is something which is integral to the subject. You have mentioned the extended project in the A-level. Maybe at the GCSE level we need to think about the extended project or something that could be brought in, which would then bring together theory and experiments, maybe in the way you have been describing it but in a structured way which could be assessed. That would be a way of bringing in something which is accessible to students, and they can understand that they are not just doing an experiment and trying to get the right answer because that is not what science is about. Earlier you were asking whether a bad demonstration is worse than having no demonstration at all. Lots of experiments in reality do not work. It would be good for students to realise that things do not work and they do not work for a certain reason, but you need very good teachers to get that across.

Q99 Stephen Mosley: Following on from that, I know the British Psychological Society have suggested a viva-style examination whereby, over the course of a year or two years, the students put their practical work in a course book. Then, at the end of the time, they have an interview and basically describe the work they have done and what they have learnt from the practicals and so on. Can you see that sort of model being successful?

Professor Hutchings: It would certainly help their interpersonal skills, wouldn’t it, which is not a bad thing? In terms of whether it would work, I do not know. I could see that working at the most senior level. If you think about the way we examine people throughout the entire level, it is at the PhD level where we do an extended oral exam where there are no prepared questions.

Sir Roland Jackson: But that is far too late. Again, if you look around the sort of things that young people have shown they can do through the National Science and Engineering Competition at school, if you give people a little bit of creative freedom, it is astonishing what they can do, and what many students can do. We just do not give them those opportunities. We wait until they start a PhD and that is too late.

Steve Jones: That would certainly encourage pupils and students to talk about their science. With all the work that has been done in schools, there are opportunities for kids to talk to each other and to talk to the teacher about their science to get the best out of them. You get a much better picture of their grasp of things and they talk at much greater length.

Beth Gardner: I have nothing further to add to that.

Q100 Pamela Nash: Most of us in this room agree that good practicals and fieldwork are very beneficial to the student and their understanding of the subject. How much do you think experiencing good practicals and fieldwork is a major factor in how many students decide to continue their study in the sciences?

Sir Roland Jackson: I think it is a major factor. Anecdotally, myself, if I had not seen a particular experiment at a certain time I would not have become a chemist. I think I can point to lots of people throughout. I have had over 200 PhD students that I have trained. If I talked to all of them, they would say much the same thing. If you talked to all the senior scientists around the country, they will say they were inspired by seeing something or knowing something could happen and then having the chance to go and do things at home, which is much more difficult now than it was years ago. It is an essential part; it really does enthuse. Something at some point will switch somebody on to the subject. If you think we are going to be a knowledge-based economy in the future and STEM is going to be crucial to generating that, then putting science into the primary national curriculum is crucial in getting young children enthused by science. They do not realise they are doing science; it is not couched in that way, but it gets them using and looking at materials. We follow that on very well up until 13, as we have discussed, and then it starts to go off, and yet the most exciting experiments come in at that later stage.

Sir Roland Jackson: We had an external evaluation of our CREST programme a few years ago. There was certainly clear evidence from that that the experience of doing the science themselves and following their own interest made it more likely for those students to think that they wanted to continue to study and eventually work in science. There is evidence from quite a lot of studies of that type, but I am not sure that anyone has ever done a completely rigorous longitudinal evaluation of all the factors that do or do not predispose people. All of our own experience and experience with these individual evaluations would point very strongly to the motivational and inspirational effect of those sorts of activities.

Steve Jones: National Strategies did some work on progression from pre-16 to post-16 and why students chose to do science. They did some analysis of the grades that students got at GCSE and how many of those students then chose to do science. One of the most striking features of that is that, if you looked at an individual institution and the numbers of students or the percentage of kids with an A or an A* who chose to do physics or chemistry, it would go up and down from one year to the next by a factor of as much as 50%. That strongly pointed at nothing to do with the curriculum but everything to do with the way that that particular subject had been taught in that year, which, unfortunately, leads you straight back to the teacher and in this context, presumably, the effective use of practical activities.

Beth Gardner: Anecdotally, if I am doing training, I will often start off with an ice-breaker of getting people to think about memories from school. 95% of those memories all relate back to something outside the classroom that they have been doing. That relates then to the different industries that people have gone into. I can see really clearly that that has had a marked effect.

Q101 Pamela Nash: That is really interesting. One of the statistics that we have in front of us today is that only 28% of English students and 27% of Welsh students take on science subjects at A-level. As you might tell from my accent, I am not from these parts. In Scotland, we have achieved a rate of 50%. I suspect that the practicalities of the Scottish education system will have a lot to do with that. Most students do take four or five highers and they take a wider range of subjects. For those who take on advanced highers, it is not the same as A-levels. It is only for very competitive courses that they would be required to do that or for fun, to put it frankly, if they were staying on. Are any of you aware of any other differences between the Scottish and English education system? Even , culturally, are there any other reasons why you think we have achieved a higher uptake in Scotland ?

Professor Hutchings: I am lost for words for once.

Pamela Nash: You can say no.

Professor Hutchings: As you say, in the Scottish system it is more broad-based. It used to be-I am not sure if it still is-when students progressed through to university they often did a common first year at Scottish universities. Those foundation years have largely gone from English and Welsh universities. They used to be quite common until about 15 years ago, I would say. Because of that broader base, yes, people will be doing science. Whether they are doing it to the required depth that will take them further is difficult to say. If you are alluding to the fact that we should have a baccalaureate-type approach where everybody has to do everything up to a certain point, I would say that is probably not a good thing because it will put stress on a lot of subjects. We can see students now thinking, "We have to do this and this", and science then gets squeezed further in the English and Welsh sectors at the present time. That is a problem, I would say.

We want to make sure that the students make an informed choice at the right level that science is where they want to explore. That level is before they choose their GCSEs. That is the crucial time. Having chosen their GCSEs, they can choose triple science or double science. Often you find that students make a choice at that time which precludes them from doing career opportunities later. We need to make sure that the support is there for the student to make the right decision at that point. That is the crucial period. Often you find that when students are faced with the choice of doing A-levels, they find they cannot take those A-levels because they have not had the right mix of subjects before. Certainly, with degree courses, it gets worse. There needs to be some joined-up thinking going on across that.

Steve Jones: I could not comment, but I know we have a sister organisation in Scotland called SSERC. I am minded to ask them and have a conversation around that. I cannot tell you at this point but it would be an interesting thing to see.

Q102 Pamela Nash: I am sure we would all appreciate it if you could do that and write to us. Just to take that a bit further then, what do you think England and Wales can do that they are not doing at the moment to try and get that level up to something closer to what they have achieved in Scotland?

Steve Jones: I would go for school senior leaders and promoting science and science careers and pathways through it, and to get school leadership teams to value their science department.

Professor Hutchings: Again, I do not know whether you have a shortage of specialist teachers in Scotland. We would need to get the evidence to be able to answer the question. What we could improve in England and Wales is provision of specialist teachers at the senior level. That would then ensure that the practical work would be being done well, being demonstrated well, enthusing the children and getting them to go through. As I said earlier, it is also the technical base and the provision of the labs. Those things all come together. Maybe in Scotland it is all there; I don’t know. Again, I think we shall have to find out and provide some additional information, if that is available.

Sir Roland Jackson: There are so many factors; that is the problem. I would also point to the information available and awareness of young people of what the opportunities are of sticking with science. I still think there is a sense that you study science if you are going to go on and be a scientist. That opens up a huge number of doors. We are seeing some of the guidance to universities-certainly the Russell Group universities-being clear about what subjects they require for entry. It may be helpful to give young people a clearer picture that there are careers in science, but there are also many careers from science and that use science, and sticking with it for a long time, especially with a grounding in mathematics, opens up many more doors than people might think.

Beth Gardner: We are a relatively new organisation so most of our work has been focused on England. Now that we are free of constraints, we will be looking to work within Scotland. It will be interesting to look at the difference in and outside the classroom in Scotland as compared with England and Wales and see whether that has an effect.

Q103 Pamela Nash: I look forward to seeing what you do then. My final question is just to pick up on something that you said, Steve, about leadership and skills in science subjects. As a Committee we visited a school last week. We met a very impressive group of young people. When we asked them what jobs they saw themselves doing, and they were all studying science subjects, they came out with a wide variety of jobs. I was very impressed by that, but it was also notable that they were all science jobs. In your opinion, what are the transferrable skills from studying science subjects? How do we get that across to our students in schools?

Steve Jones: It is a strategy for solving problems, is it not? I have stood on many a platform and said, "If you’re not a scientist, I don’t really quite know what you do on a day-to-day basis when you have to solve a problem." You use that logical construct of breaking it down and thinking about it and looking for the factors and so on every day, don’t you? That is a transferrable skill. But it is the one that you don’t get to practise in science if your science is about acquiring knowledge rather than about being a scientist. I would go for that as my No. 1. You are numerate and have all the skills that usually enable you to access careers outside science, but your No. 1 life skill is your ability to solve problems.

Q104 Pamela Nash: Any other ideas?

Professor Hutchings: No; I think you have hit the nail on the head, basically.

Sir Roland Jackson: Organised scepticism is the root of what science is about. That sort of approach is helpful in all sorts of walks of life.

Steve Jones: It is an antidote to advertising, isn’t it? It enables you to respond assertively to adverts. My wife’s son is now trained to look at those little tiny words that come across the bottom of the screen when the adverts come up that say, "This was done on a sample of six people one Thursday on a rainy afternoon", and then he goes, "Hmm, yes, perhaps I won’t believe what they are claiming about it." You are then in charge of your own destiny, aren’t you? You are not going to get hoodwinked. That is what it is really all about.

Professor Hutchings: The scientific method is applicable in real life.

Steve Jones: Interestingly, I had not really thought just how different that way of thinking is. I did a session for technicians in a nearby local authority. We investigated whether water divining works or not, which was interesting as an activity. The idea obviously is that you had to collect some evidence to show one way or the other whether it worked. Everybody was very sceptical because they all had a background in science. The first person picked up the set of rods, held them over a bucket of water and it appeared to work. So there was consternation and they all said, "Give me the rods; give me the rods; give me the rods." What they did was they all grabbed these rods and tried it. "My God, she’s right. It works for me; it works for me." Other people said, "Give it to me; give it to me." After about 20 minutes it was obvious that nothing else was going to happen apart from the fact that more people were going to try it with more water and rods. I had to stop and say, "This is all very interesting but what we are doing here is a sort of social sciences inquiry. Is anybody going to do any science?" There was a little bit of an awkward silence and then somebody said, "Oh, hang on a minute. I can see the water in that pot. Perhaps that is affecting it." Then, "All right, we have to cover up the rods and cover up the water so we don’t know whether it is there or not." But it showed that the natural way of thinking about things is not necessarily a scientific process, and yet there is the power of it once you have all the science, because at the end of the scientific process you potentially could know whether it worked or not. It did not matter how many people came in the room, picked up the rods and tried them. At the end of it you still would not know whether it worked or not. That was very striking, so it showed a distinct way of thinking. Even people who had been trained in that needed to be prompted to use that approach to come up with an answer, which was fascinating to watch. I will probably get arrested for doing water divining.

Pamela Nash: Thank you very much. We certainly appreciate that.

Chair: We drifted a long way from Scotland in the responses to those questions. Thank you very much for your contributions this morning. It has been extremely helpful. We would be grateful to receive any additional information on some of those interesting points, particularly any data you have that compares the Scottish system with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. That does seem to leave a question mark in the air in terms of the responses you were able to give us. Thank you very much indeed.

Prepared 8th July 2011