Desperate state of science GCSE

6th April 2007 at 01:00
I am an experienced head of physics at a high-achieving 11-18 state comprehensive school in England. I am teaching the new AQA GCSE scienceadditional sciencephysics qualifications, and for the first time in my career I am embarrassed in my own classroom.

The physics (and, to a lesser extent, chemistry) components of the "GCSE"

science that I now teach are appallingly bad. When the specifications were released last year, I read the criticisms in the press and the Association for Science Education's response of support for the new GCSE and decided to reserve my own judgment until I had taught it. But it is now April and Year 10 is all but over. For the first time, I said to my wife that I would never allow my own children to sit in my classroom and be taught such a shambles masquerading as "science". If I wouldn't allow my own children to receive this education, you can imagine how I feel delivering it to 100 other people's children each week.

I am not alone. Recently, I informally consulted as many physics and chemistry teachers as I could at local authority meetings and other events and via email discussion groups. I am overwhelmed by how most of my colleagues feel the same. I feel desperate because the Institute of Physics, the ASE, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority all publicly pledge their support for the new specifications.

Who are they representing? For I can find few practising teachers willing to voice support. The ASE claims teachers must simply be supported in delivering the course, but this is just a euphemism for "each teacher in the land will just have to sort out this mess in their own classroom and we'll be there to help them".

We teachers are the ones doing what we are told and delivering this mess.

We are the ones who are at the so-called chalkface and we feel let down, embarrassed and helpless. We weren't consulted widely enough.

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