APPENDIX 5: VISIT TO YORK |
Friday 23 June 2006
Members visiting York were Lord Broers (Chairman),
Lord Howie of Troon, Lord Paul, Baroness Perry of Southwark and
Baroness Sharp of Guildford, with Tom Wilson (Clerk) in attendance.
The Committee was welcomed to Huntington School by
the head teacher, Mr Chris Bridge. The school was a comprehensive
with 1,500 pupils (267 in the sixth form) and a wide ability range.
It had been granted technology college status.
Giving a brief introduction, Mr Bridge commented
that only one person had applied to become Head of Physics at
Huntington School, in spite of its very high reputation, which
demonstrated the ongoing difficulties in recruiting science teachers.
The number of pupils taking A-levels in science and mathematics
had remained stable, even though these subjects had a reputation
for being "hard". Psychology A-level had proved very
popular, and two dedicated teachers were employed to teach the
The Committee members proceeded to split up into
groups in order to talk to students, technicians and teachers,
and to sit in on a Sixth Form biology class.
National Science Learning Centre
The Committee was welcomed to the National Science
Learning Centre by Professor John Holman, the Centre Director.
The National Centre, which opened in 2005, was funded by the Wellcome
Trust until 2013, whilst the nine regional centres were funded
by the Department for Education and Skills until 2008. Together,
the centres provided professional development services for science
teachers, technicians and teaching assistants.
The courses offered at the National Centre were residential,
with purpose-built accommodation available on-site. The courses
were generally in three parts: an initial residential period where
attendees were taught by both internal and external instructors;
a "gap task" where new skills could be tried out, with
communications being maintained through the web portal; and a
second residential period. For the time being, most attendees
had their costs met by Wellcome Trust bursaries, provided they
could prove that their attendance would have a beneficial impact
on their school. However, this subsidy was not sustainable in
the medium to long term.
After visiting a class for post-16 chemistry teachers,
which looked at the value of discussion groups and games in making
chemistry exciting, members took part in a discussion with a number
of the Centre's employees. It was thought to be essential for
teachers to receive a sufficient amount of subject-specific continuing
professional development (CPD), not merely generic CPD, and that
this CPD should consist of a blend of external and in-school training.
The value of external CPD was that it allowed teachers to meet
colleagues from other schools and to share ideas. There should
be a more systematic framework for teacher CPD, as with some other
professions, with professional development being linked to pay.
The introduction of a system of credits leading to a qualification
could also be a valuable development.
The Centre also offered courses on teaching practical
science. It was felt that there was not enough exciting practical
work in schools for a number of reasons: time pressures, lack
of knowledge or confidence among teachers, and a mistaken perception
of health and safety constraints. In addition, there were serious
problems with the recruitment and retention of science technicians,
alongside an inadequate recognition of the importance of their
role. Many technicians were part-time, which meant that they often
did not have time to carry out valuable preparatory work.