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Glasgow orders rethink on science

Science teaching in Glasgow's secondary schools is in need of a "radical review", the city's education committee has been told. Ken Corsar, Glasgow's director of education, who has ordered an investigation, told councillors: "We have to acknowledge that science is not as well taught and organised as it should be."

The director's move follows the annual analysis of the city's Standard grade and Higher results, which is now in its eighth year. Figures from the Education Management Information Service, which provides a similar service for 12 other councils, show pupils performing half as well in science as they do nationally while other subjects in Glasgow secondaries have improved significantly.

The city's "comparative index" of pupil achievement at Standard grade Credit level has risen from 52 to 56 between 1994-96 (100 being the national norm). Whereas the figure for English has risen from 59 to 63, for modern languages from 48 to 58 and for social subjects from 55 to 58, science is the poorest of the five core subjects with a rating of 51, up just three points.

Maths, which is also giving education officials cause for concern, is the next weakest with an index reading of 53, one point down on 1994.

The pattern is repeated at Higher grade with A band passes in English, foreign languages, social subjects and maths at or above the Glasgow average of 44 (100 being again the national index figure). The science figure is 34, a two-point increase over three years compared with an 18-point improvement in languages.

Mr Corsar says the analysis "has started alarm bells ringing". Principal teachers had admitted that the science curriculum was not working, he said. "It may be that the pendulum has swung too far to individualised learning and science teachers themselves are saying there may be a need to reintroduce more whole-class teaching, getting more direction into it."

Malcolm Green, the council's education chairman, is upbeat, however, about the overall performance of the city's secondary schools. "We are not despondent. We are achieving better results year on year," Dr Green said.

The Glasgow figures will none the less further underline the unease over secondary science teaching following the recent international study (TESS, November 22) that placed Scotland 25th out of 38 countries in the performance of first-year secondary pupils while second-year pupils came 25th out of 40.

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