End the waste of science resources

17th January 1997 at 00:00
Professor Alan Smithers calls for greater academic breadth in science teaching from age 14 onwards, including a five-subject baccalaureate-type A-level which would include science (TES, January 3). He points to the major success story of GCSE.

Can I state the obvious? The greater success is measured by the increased numbers who are obliged to study science to GCSE.

This, however, has not led to an increase in students wanting to specialise in science at A-level, except in independent and grammar schools. What confidence can we have in an increase in students wanting to study science and mathematical subjects at degree level if there is a compulsory A-level component?

Professor Smithers is also enthusiastic for greater breadth in science teaching, which I take to mean less specialisation at an early level. The independent and selective schools have maintained or increased the numbers wanting to continue to a more specialised level because they offer, in the main, separate sciences to GCSE in preference to dual certificated or balanced science courses.

In our selective school our experience is that the dual science certificate does not give the student a sufficiently clear picture of her relative strengths in biology, chemistry and physics before she chooses to specialise at A-level. With some misgivings, and despite the enormous success in terms of exceptionally good results at GCSE, we are reverting to discrete sciences at GCSE.

I agree with the view about the disjunction at age 16. I also endorse very strongly the need to think through very carefully what our expectations are of compulsory post-GCSE courses, not only in terms of course content but also in terms of resources.

The national curriculum has made enormous demands on the school's resources in science, information technology and design technology.

We cannot have students who continue to consume even more of the expensive resources and yet, in the end, opt for the more creative and expressive areas for which they have aptitude and interest and through the study of which they will have fulfilling lives and careers.

JOAN FISHER Headteacher King Edward V1 Camp Hill School for Girls, Vicarage Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham

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