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'Formulaic' science curriculum slammed

The science curriculum is encouraging pupils to do little more than prepare for exams that are creating a "corrupted", "bankrupt" teaching system, leading science educationalists have claimed.

They say a lack of practical experiments, a formulaic curriculum and assessment and the supposed league table equivalences between different qualifications are damaging science in schools.

Their views were revealed this week in a report of a seminar on science education held by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), a major exam board.

"The current curriculum was encouraging students to do the bare minimum in order to get through the exam instead of inspiring a lifelong interest in science," participants were reported as saying.

Royal Society of Chemistry chief executive Richard Pike said: "Teachers are so frustrated that they just want to get the curriculum out of the way and do the interesting things."

Exams were criticised for not bearing any resemblance to the way scientists worked. Nigel Heslop, from the Association for Science Education, said: "Part of the problem with the exam system is that you can just learn the content and just spend two months revising before the exam and successfully pass."

Almost all the teachers at the seminar said a variety of science courses were needed to accommodate pupils' different abilities and learning styles.

But some participants "firmly believed that the system was bankrupt owing to the lack of real equivalence between qualifications and that a broad range, beyond Triple Science, was not required".

Schools did not always have the child's interest at heart in this "corrupted" system, they said.

David Perks, head of physics at Graveney School in south London, said: "There is a massive bleeding out of proper academic scientific qualifications into vocational qualifications because they are an easier route to a grade C."

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