5-14 project weathers storm and is set fair

7th March 2003 at 00:00
At the three-day annual conference of the Association for Science Education Scotland, which starts today in Aberdeen, Learning and Teaching Scotland will report on the progress of Improving Science Education 5-14.

The national initiative began in 2000 with high hopes but has faced various problems, which came to a head in January with the resignation of the project manager, Bill Fleming.

"It was conceived by the Scottish Science Advisory Group," says Glasgow science adviser David Lawson. "The time was right because the national science strategy was about to be published and there was a groundswell of feeling that we badly needed to improve science education in primary and early secondary. But it has dragged on and on.

"Some authorities, such as Glasgow, have in the meantime developed their own materials, which already do most of what ISE 5-14 was supposed to do.

"We now think we've got an excellent programme that we'll be launching soon for primary and Secondary 1 and 2."

The initial aim of ISE 5-14 was to take the best 5-14 curriculum materials and resources from authorities across the country, add various other schemes and structures, such as SOLSN (the Science On-Line Support Network), and present an attractive, easily-digested package. Unfortunately some of the ingredients did not seem to blend.

As the science adviser in Renfrewshire, Mr Fleming has been a key influence on ISE 5-14 thinking and his 5-14 science materials are highly regarded.

His decision to resign is understood to be due to the slow progress of the project, the marginalisation of those with experience of developing science 5-14 materials and the increasingly dominant role of LT Scotland in what was supposed to have been an equal partnership among all the participants.

The project appears to have got back on track last week, following a meeting of the steering group. A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said:

"ISE 5-14 is an ambitious project. It consists of four equal partners, the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Science Advisory Group, the Scottish School Equipment Research Centre, and Learning and Teaching Scotland.

"The project has now moved from a strategic phase to an implementation phase and a project management group chaired by the Scottish Executive will oversee implementation."

Mr Lawson was reassured by the meeting. "We all agreed that there are many authorities for which what the project is trying to do is still worthwhile," he said.

"Instead of people making up stuff and trying to flog it to everybody else, they'll be making up stuff for the good of everybody in the country."


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