Science still a primary tester

Primary teachers are getting better at teaching science and technology but will continue to lag behind the highest international and British standards for some time yet, according to researchers. Environmental studies guidelines, which include science, had not been introduced to a third of schools when a study was carried out last year.

Music is the only subject they feel more unhappy teaching. They are most comfortable teaching mathematics and English, followed by social subjects, health education, religious education, physical education and art. Then come the sciences.

A survey by Wynne Harlen, director of the Scottish Council for Research in Education, first carried out in 1993 and repeated last year, emphasises continuing difficulties for primary teachers, although it found they gained confidence as the new guidelines were introduced. In-service training helped boost their skills.

Researchers south of the border discovered primary teachers got better at teaching science after the national curriculum was introduced, supported by increased resources and training. Professor Harlen suggests a similar picture could be emerging here.

She comments: "There is room for optimism that the change in this direction may continue with the further implementation of environmental studies." But internationally "we still have some way to go in raising achievements in science".

The study found that primary teachers grew more confident when teaching attainment outcomes for energy and forces, earth and space, and technology. They got only marginally better at teaching investigative skills. Assessment and record-keeping were difficult.

Confidence Rising Slowly: Primary Teachers' Feelings about Science and Technology is published by the Scottish Council for Research in Education as part of the Spotlight series. Single copies are free from SCRE, 15 St John Street, Edinburgh EH8 8JR.

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