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Survey declares science 'boring'

THE NATIONAL curriculum has made school science boring by stamping out spontaneous teaching and discouraging lessons which follow children's interests, according to a new report.

Instead, the science curriculum should combine much less statutory content with the freedom to explore any topic and to develop new teaching materials, a study by two Leeds University academics argues.

Teachers want a more flexible curriculum so they can pursue subjects which catch pupils' interest and tailor lessons to help less able children, the study's survey of more than 300 teachers found.

Dr James Donnelly and Professor Edgar Jenkins of the Centre for Policy Studies in Education argue, in their pamphlet Science Teaching in Secondary Schools under the National Curriculum, that schools must have time to follow local or teacher-led interests and the curriculum should be used to develop guidance materials for other schools.

The survey also showed that science teachers believe the curriculum's first attainment target, Experimental and Investigative Science, affected school practical work badly. The national curriculum had narrowed pupils' range of laboratory skills because the target failed to capture the key elements of experimental and investigative science, they reported.

The report says: "Attainment target one commits teachers to an assessment-orientated and routinised round of laboratory activity.

"Teachers regard their professional authority, as expressed in the discretion they exercise over curriculum and pedagogy, as having been severely curtailed."

The authors argued for a small core of statutory material enhanced by a teacher-led extension curriculum monitored by inspectors. This wider programme would produce officially recognised guidance material.

Further information can be obtained from the University of Leeds or from cps@education.leeds.ac.uk

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