How to stop the decline of science

6th January 1995 at 00:00
For nearly 20 years I have watched the emergence of "balanced science" with interest and approval - first as head of science, then as a member of the group that wrote the science national curriculum, and most recently as head of this school. Like Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson, I am convinced that to ensure good uptake of science A-levels it is essential to have a strong tradition of teaching separate sciences (TES, December 23).

This school has run balanced science courses to GCSE since the mid-1970s, offering all students the choice between double certificate co-ordinated science and three separate sciences. If students opt for separate sciences, they must take all three. One result of this policy has been that we have consistently reversed the trend of declining interest in science at A-level. In most years, we have 40 or 50 students taking each of biology, chemistry and physics at A-level (out of a year group of around 125), with significant numbers going forward to study science-based courses at university.

I appreciate that schools with a fully comprehensive intake may have different priorities, but I am sure that the popularity of modular and integrated science courses in the 1980s contributed to the decline in A-level numbers. Smithers and Robinson report a move away from such courses and renewed interest in separate sciences, which may well feed through to better A-level numbers in the future.

John Holman

Headteacher

Watford Grammar School for Boys

Rickmansworth Road

Watford

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