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Call for Sir Ron to slow down

The Association for Science Education has joined the campaign to slow down Sir Ron Dearing's high-speed review of A-level subjects, with a warning that rapid change could further damage sixth-form science.

The ASE has written to Sir Ron, chairman of the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority, and to education minister Lord Henley saying that the revision of A-level physics proposed by SCAA is hasty, and potentially unworkable.

SCAA had hoped to revise the core elements of all A-level subjects so that the new AS-level, proposed in Sir Ron's review of 16-19 education, would be ready for 1998.

But the speed of the exercise has drawn widespread criticism. The Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Royal Society, exam boards, and most recently the heads of 23 independent schools have all called for a delay.

A-level mathematics, which is subject to major changes including the introduction of a non-calculator paper, has caused particular concern.

SCAA's own joint maths and science consultative committee had advised the authority to take more time in reviewing both maths and science. But SCAA went ahead, leading to allegations from senior mathematicians that the syllabus was effectively re-written in just two or three days.

Mary Ratcliffe, chair of the Association for Science Education, said. "We have written to both Sir Ron Dearing and Lord Henley expressing disquiet about the speed of the consultation, and its nature. I suspect there are a lot of teachers who aren't really aware of the impact these changes will have.

"The biggest difficulty is that there are two sorts of clientele for the proposed AS-level: those doing it as a stepping stone to A-level, and those wanting to broaden their post-16 studies.

"Satisfying both groups will not be easy. The courses must be stimulating and relevant. Producing them in a hurry could have a dramatic impact on post-16 science take-up, which is already problematic."

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