Primary experiments squeezed

A NARROW focus on testing is squeezing the vitality out of primary science, according to the new chief executive of the Association for Science Education.

The subject is also threatened by the emphasis on literacy and numeracy, former teacher Derek Bell said. Primary science had been a great success but in some schools it had been relegated to one hour a week. He said: "I go into schools and see revision from the Easter term. Enthusiasm is still there but it is being squeezed and squeezed."

Dr Bell, who began his teaching career in the 1970s at Christleton high school in Cheshire, said assessment regimes could cripple creativity. Teachers needed to be trusted to use their experience and ideas to innovate in a way that was best for their children.

The Government's Science Year, which focussed mainly on 12 to 18-year-olds was criticised earlier this year for neglecting primary science. Dr Bell said its successor Planet Science must have primary schools at its heart.

His views were echoed by Professor Wynne Harlen, president of the British Association's education section, who said that testing is destroying scientific literacy.

"Students are not developing deeper learning or a love for learning," she said. "For lifelong learning we need students who enjoy learning and want to keep on doing it."

And she told The TES that government initiatives to boost science in schools, such as the investments recently announced in the comprehensive spending review, could be scuppered if the testing regime was not changed.

"It has not clicked with the Government that it is destroying the ability to achieve some of these things with the testing regime."

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