Flexibility is key

6th January 2006 at 00:00
At last, teachers can enjoy more choice in creating syllabuses, says Derek Bell

It is a truism that the only constant in education is change. The rate of change may vary but it is always with us and we are challenged, sometimes to the limit, to respond and implement them. In science education we have experienced our fair share of initiatives, whether they be revisions to curriculum requirements or more schemes to "make science more exciting".

Despite the potential overload and associated pressures this creates, the thing about change is that it provides opportunities not just to try something new but also to reaffirm what is good already.

The next 12 months will see the introduction of the new GSCE specifications, consultations and revisions to key stage 3 programmes of study in England, with similar changes taking place in the other parts of the UK.

It would be easy to sit back and let it happen, but there is a real opportunity to make a difference. Why should it be different this time? Part of the answer is that the development of revised programmes of study is a response to widespread calls to reduce the amount of prescribed content and enable teachers and schools to be more flexible in the type of science they offer.

The changes should pave the way for meeting the different needs of students through programmes that allow for some choice and which are more relevant for those students who do not continue science post-16, as well as for those who do.

Another part of the answer is that teachers and schools are able to be more selective and creative in the way they devise the science programmes for their students. In other words, more of the decisions about what is studied are being returned to teachers and schools. Again, this is something long asked for.

The challenge for us is to decide how to best take advantage of these opportunities. At whatever level, the important thing is that we engage our students in one of the most exciting subjects there is. Key to that engagement is our own enthusiasm, so why not try something different that interests you? It may not be in the scheme of work, but if it gets students interested then it is a step in the right direction.

Where better to re-kindle your own enthusiasm than the Association for Science Education annual conference or one of ASE's many activities throughout the year. Join us? You are welcome.

Dr Derek Bell is chief executive of the Association for Science Educationwww.ase.org uk

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