APPENDIX 4: SEMINAR |
Wednesday 14 June 2006
Members of the Committee present were: Lord Broers
(Chairman), Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, Lord Howie of Troon,
Lord Mitchell, Lord Patel, Lord Paul, Baroness Perry of Southwark,
Baroness Platt of Writtle, the Earl of Selborne and Lord Taverne.
In attendance were Tom Wilson (Clerk) and Dr Cathleen Schulte
Recent Intelligence about the Labour Market for Science
and Mathematics Teachers: Professor John Howson
Education Data Surveys' research, which involved
close monitoring of the employment market, showed that there continued
to be staffing problems in science and mathematics teaching. The
advent of university tuition fees had adversely affected the number
of teacher training applications up to 2000, but this impact had
subsequently been reduced by the introduction of the training
grant to supplement the so-called "Golden Hellos".
The projected number of applications this year for
Postgraduate Certificates in Education (PGCEs) in the sciences
was similar to last year's figure, notwithstanding a very high-profile
advertising campaign to attract more teachers. There were, however,
fewer applications to mathematics PGCE courses so far. The number
of applications and acceptances for PGCEs in both biology and
combined sciences had risen steadily over the last ten years,
whereas the numbers for chemistry, physics and mathematics had
dropped significantly before starting to rise again in the late
1990s, following the introduction of the training grant.
Schools were mostly recruiting general scientistsrather
than those with expertise in a particular sciencein order
to teach general sciences. With regard to pay, most heads of science
departments earned only around £8,000 above the normal teaching
salary, which was thought to be too low given the extra workload
Attitudes to Science Teaching as a Career: Professor
A considerable amount of research had been undertaken
into attitudes to science teaching as a career. Attractions for
potential teachers included working with children, the pleasure
of teaching something well, staying with or returning to the subject
in question and a more idealistic desire to "give something
back". On a more practical level, teaching was thought to
provide long holidays and to fit well with parentingalthough
these benefits could turn out to be illusory. For particular classes
of recruit, teaching offered a good salary and job security. Problems
in the supply of physics teachers (the key issue in science teacher
recruitment) tended to stem more from the smaller pool of potential
entrants than from the distinctive characteristics of physics
Factors that deterred people from pursuing a teaching
career included student and parent behaviour, salary and career
opportunities and adverse working conditions (long hours, poor
resourcing, stress, political interference). There were also difficulties
in retaining teachers, with workload, pupil behaviour and Government
initiatives being the most commons reasons for teachers leaving.
In terms of attracting more new recruits, Government
schemes tended to influence those already committed to a teaching
career, rather than those inclined not to teach. It was necessary
to increase the pool from which science teachers were drawn by
improving the curriculum and teaching methods and, in the long
term, to ensure that teaching was seen as a properly independent
profession rather than a mere tool of Government.
Recruitment and Retention of Science Teachers,
and the impact of new science courses: Mr David Bevan and Ms Sue
New GCSE science curricula would be taught in schools
from September 2006. The Twenty First Century Science courses
had been piloted in 78 schools and had proved more exciting and
relevant for pupils, although the courses were very hard work
for teachers and carried serious resource implications.
However, the press had taken an "unhelpful"
attitude to the forthcoming GCSE changes and it was therefore
vital to show students that the sciences were worth studying beyond
the age of 16. The Treasury's targets for increasing the number
of A-level science entries were laudable, but would require a
significant increase in teacher numbers.
There was a problem with the "bunching"
of new initiatives in science education, with too many things
happening at the same timeand it was uncertain whether
the Department for Education and Skills was monitoring the situation
holistically. It was essential that the changes to the GCSE curriculum
be embedded, monitored and evaluated.
Support and Provision for Practical Science in
Secondary Schools: Mr Phil Bunyan
Less practical work was taking place in science lessons
than formerly, and there was less variety. This tended to be because
of teachers' concerns about health and safetyoften prompted
by mistaken beliefs about which activities were bannedand
classroom management. As well as operating a helpline to provide
advice on practicals, CLEAPSS offered CPD courses, mostly to technicians
but also to some teachers. However, teachers often found it difficult
to obtain permission to attend such courses during the week.
Another problem was the state of school laboratories,
41 per cent of which had been classified as "basic (uninspiring)"
and 25 per cent as "unsafe/unsatisfactory". Moreover,
it was to be regretted that most technicians were part-time and
worked only during school hours, because they rarely had time
to carry out the required levels of maintenance on the equipment.
It was also unsatisfactory that technicians were not usually included
in staff meetings.
There was uncertainty about whether the new GCSE
curricula would lead to an increased amount of practical work
in schools or, by contrast, whether the new emphasis on ethical
and social issues might reduce the frequency of practicals. However,
regardless of the effect on practicals, courses like Twenty First
Century Science were felt to be an improvementrather than
dumbing down the standard of science education, they would enable
a better understanding of the role of science in society. There
were, though, concerns that such courses were being introduced
before being subjected to full evaluation.
It was important that promising young science students
should receive a well-rounded education rather than undergoing
"hot-housing" which, while it might increase the number
of people studying science, could do them a disservice in the
long-term by narrowing their options too early. Another issue
was industry's desire for a greater supply of scientists qualified
to a diploma level. Although an engineering diploma was due to
be introduced in 2007/8, it was felt to be "rather dull".
Finally, it was noted that there was no requirementor
even entitlementfor teachers to undertake CPD. It was thought
that some form of accreditation in return for CPD would be appropriate,
and the ASE's Chartered Science Teacher scheme was a step in the
right direction. However, it would be difficult to make progress
until proper incentives were made available for CPD.
The participants were:
Dr Stephen Baker, Training and Development Agency
for Schools (TDA)
Dr Derek Bell, Chief Executive, Association for Science
Mr David Bevan, Head of Science at Manningtree High
School, Essex, and former Chair of the ASE
Mr Phil Bunyan, Director, Consortium of Local Education
Authorities for the Provision of Science Services (CLEAPSS)
Dr Marianne Cutler, Director of Curriculum Development,
Professor James Donnelly, Professor of Science Education,
Ms Sue Flanagan, Deputy Head Teacher at Forest Gate
Community School, London, and former Chair of the ASE
Professor Matthew Harrison, Royal Academy of Engineering
Professor John Howson, Director, Education Data Surveys
Professor Celia Hoyles, Chief Adviser for Mathematics,
Department for Education and Skills (DfES)
Ms Sarah Nairne, DfES
Ms Ginny Page, Education Manager, Royal Society
Dr Almut Sprigade, Research and Information Officer,
Dr Kay Stephenson, Royal Society of Chemistry