One of the main concerns addressed at this year's Association for Science Education confer-ence was the future of science education post-16. The role, purpose and "delivery" of the general national vocational qualification in science was a common theme in seminars and on displays.
Several publishers provide excellent materials for Intermediate and Advanced GNVQ science. The Nuffield Science in Practice published by Heinemann is well known. Materials for both levels have also been produced by teams of authors working for Oxford University Press, Nelson and CRACHobson. Oxford's range includes books on the core skills of number and communication, while CRACHobson has smaller, industry-sponsored resources.
The National Council for Vocational Qualifications is marketing a pack of five videos, called the Science GNVQ Video Pack (Pounds 30), to support teachers. The videos show scientists at work and should be valuable for demonstrating the reality of science.
The question of parity of esteem between the traditional science A-levels and what former Education Secretary John Patten foolishly called the "vocational A-level" still remains. However, on the evidence from the conference, resources for GNVQ students and teachers are already equal in quality.
The other major debate, this time bubbling under the surface of science education, concerns the future of practical work. As we approach the new millennium, we must look at its purpose in science and how we should view the new technology available for enhancing or replacing it.
Teachers who can afford the equipment can still do old-fashioned practical work. Many new resources for hands-on work were on display at the conference. Philip Harris, Griffin and George, and NES Arnold all had interesting ideas. One of the more active advisory services in the UK, Northamptonshire Inspection and Advisory Service was showing its full range of resources, including its kits (from Pounds 115) for studying space, rocks and the environment.
Many other ideas were on show in the "members' exhibition", where the prize for acronym of the year had to go to SHEEP - the School and Home Energy Efficiency Project. This demonstrated how science activities and computer software could save energy in buildings.
For science teachers who wish to give a new dimension to their practical work and reach the higher level skills that traditional data collection cannot, a range of data-logging resources was on show. New and improved versions of LogIT (Griffin and George) and Sense and Control (Data Harvest) are available. It is now common for data-logging kits to come with teacher support and worksheets.
System SM (Philip Harris) has a set of curriculum notes (at about Pounds 29 for each of the sciences), while a crusader in the field of data-logging, Laurence Rogers of Leicester University, has produced a new booklet, called Making the Most of Insight (Pounds 7.50), to go with all the major equipment.
Data HarvestEducational Electronics will launch Sense Control EasyLog (Pounds 199) this year. By pressing the EasyLog button, and switching to sleep mode, data recording starts automatically for up to 33 days remote from a computer. Data can be retrieved either by linking to a computer and using Insight software or by linking to the Acorn Pocket Book II and using Pocket SaC software (Pounds 99).
For those who want to step out of the school lab and into the virtual world of multimedia, there is an impressive range of CD-Roms for science. The wisdom and ethics of doing science on screen are still open to debate. However, it cannot be denied that experiments involving processes that are too dangerous, too slow or too fast to be done in real life, are best carried out on a multimedia system.
The most notable one is the explosive reaction of caesium in water, which can be demonstrated by The Chemistry Set (New Media). Many newer examples were on show. Yorkshire International Thomson Multimedia will add Electricity and Magnetism (Pounds 79.99) to its range. Bradford Technology (BTL) now has nearly 20 titles for science and plans to add chemistry ones this year. Anglia Multimedia has a new catalogue with several science discs, including Seashore Life, Weather and Climate and Understanding the Body. One impressive CD-Rom for science has been Multimedia Motion (Cambridge Science Media). This will soon be supported by an extensive teachers' guide and joined by a new disc, Multimedia Sound (Pounds 55), in March.
An interesting offer is being made by Stanley Thornes, which is selling a CD-Rom (Images of Biology) to accompany its A-level text of the same title. The disc supplements the book by providing audio and video animations, raising issues about the relative value of multimedia and straight text. The combination is worth looking at.
For those who want textbooks only, Oxford University Press has updated Starting Science, and John Murray has produced a new Understanding Science. A new course for Years 7 to 9 was on display with Heinemann, called Science Now (reviewed on page 18).
The ASE now acts as a major distributor for science publications, including a new Wordbank of more than 300 key words of the science national curriculum in the form of a poster (from ASE at about Pounds 3). Whichever way practical work goes, we will still have textbooks and video in the year 2000. Video is a useful supplement to practical work or multimedia, and Viewtech Film and Video continues to offer an excellent range for teachers. More than 20 physics titles on light, robotics, lasers, motion, and gravity were launched at the conference. These included What is Light? and Nuclear Forces.
There are 15 new biology titles, including The Human Body, Freshwater Invertebrates and Genetic Engineering. What are Cells Like? for key stage 3 seems to fill a need for video material.
For technology, there are three new series, Technology in our World, Technology of Transportation, and Interactions in Science and Society. New Earth science titles cover plate tectronics, earthquakes, volcanoes, and weathering and erosion. Most videos cost about Pounds 29 each.
For those who missed the excellent Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, the complete set of five, called Planet and Earth: An Explorer's Guide (Pounds 29), is available to schools from the BBC, while Channel 4 will be broadcasting a new range of programmes, including the New Living Bod, in the autumn, and Scientific Eye in the spring - all with teachers' guides.
Teachers and pupils are still likely to work with animals in the new millennium. More than one conference session discussed the ethics of this practice, but two companies continue to provide a valuable and ethical service to primary and secondary teachers. 1996 may be the Chinese year of the rat, but Blades Biological and Small-Life Supplies provide far more with their range of animals and humane habitats. For locusts, newts, giant snails, cockroaches, beetles, fish and reptiles, they offer an excellent service.
Anglia Multimedia, Anglia House, Norwich NR1 3JG.
ASE Booksales, College Lane, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL10 9AA.
BBC Videos for Education Training, 80 Wood Lane, London W12 0TT.
Blades Biological, Cowden, Edenbridge, Kent TN8 7DX.
BTL Publishing, Angel Way, Bradford BD7 1BX.
Cambridge Science Media, 354 Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 3NN. CRACHobson, Bateman Street, Cambridge CB2 1LZ.
Griffin George, Bishop Meadow Road Loughborough Leicestershire LE11 0RG.
Heinemann Educational, Freepost, PO Box 380 Oxford OX2 8BR.
John Murray, 50 Albemarle Street London W1X 4BD.
Laurence Rogers, IT Publications, School of Education, Leicester University, 21 University Road, Leicester LE1 7RF.
NCVQ, 222 Euston Road, London NW1 2BZ.
Nelson Publishers, Mayfield Road, Walton-on-Thames KT12 5PL.
NES Arnold Scientific, Ludlow Hill Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham NG2 1BR.
New Media, 12 Oval Road, London NW1 7DH.
Northamptonshire Inspection and Advisory Service (NIAS), Lewis Road, Northampton NN5 7BJ.
Oxford University Press, Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6DP.
Philip Harris Education, Lynn Lane, Shenstone, Lichfield, Staffordshire WS14 0EE.
SHEEP, 46 Richards Road, Sheffield S2 3DT.
Small-Life Supplies, Normanton Lane Industrial Estate Bottesford Nottinghamshire NG13 0EL.
Stanley Thornes, Ellenborough House Wellington Street Cheltenham GL50 1YW.
Viewtech Film Video, 161 Winchester Road Brislington, Bristol BS4 3NJ.
Yorkshire International Thomson Multimedia, The Television Centre, Leeds LS3 1JS