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Boost for boffins

Mike Follows Willenhall, West Midlands

Warwick Mansell's article "Mystery of tick-box testing" (TES, December 8) suggests the new science specifications arrived out of the blue. My understanding is that Science for the 21st Century (OCR's specification A) was inspired by the research of Robin Millar and Jonathan Osborne in Beyond 2000: Science Education for the Future (1998).

Science for the 21st Century has come under fire for diluting science content in favour of discussing controversial issues and the social context of science. If this specification boosts the numbers who study science beyond GCSE, I am in favour. Instead of aping its competitors, OCR took a risk and should be applauded. Science teachers now have a real choice about the emphasis of the content and the assessment instruments used. We should celebrate that, unless we want a single national awarding body.

Mr Mansell also implied that multiple-choice tests were a soft option. OK, they should be used alongside other types of assessment, but they can be made as demanding as you like, and they are potentially the most reliable instrument available. Of more concern is that some papers are to be internally assessed. There is already collusion over coursework, and without safeguards the same could happen with internal assessments.

Teachers are judged by league tables. Internal assessment and league tables should not co-exist. Remove league tables and pupils will take more responsibility for their work again.

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