Focus on ideas seeks to boost sixth-form interest
The AS (advanced subsidiary) qualification in Science for Public Understanding comes from the same stable as the influential NuffieldKing's College report Beyond 2000. This called for children to be taught the "explanatory stories" behind science in contrast to the current fact-by-fact approach.
The course, which is now being taught in 50 pilot schemes, could provide a template for science further down the school, say its backers.
It covers key science ideas - such as the germ theory of disease and the gene model of inheritance - using classroom discussion and project work rather than laboratory-based practicals.
As reported in last week's TES, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is looking at ways of making science more relevant to pupils' lives, under changes planned for the national curriculum in 2000.
Initial feedback on the course was reported to the ASE's annual meeting.
Philip Pryor, science officer with the Northern Examinations and Assessment Board, one of the partners involved in the course's development, said the AS had potential for use by 14 to 16-year-olds.
"If you look at Beyond 2000 alongside the AS Science for Public Understanding, you will find an awful lot of the same thinking," he told ASE delegates.
"It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that at some time, a course of the sort we are talking about might find a place at key stage 4. Should that happen, the experiences we are building up on the AS pilot will be very beneficial."
The course is also a new qualification, he noted, and could help establish standards for all delayed advanced subsidiary courses, due to start up from September 2000.
These will replace the current AS (advanced supplementaries), and will form the first year of A-level courses, under plans to reform and rationalise post-16 education.