Letters extra: Compulsory science

7th March 2003 at 00:00

In the current debate on the future development of 14-19 learning, I welcome the practical changes to the curriculum that introduce more flexibility for schools to tailor programmes to individuals' needs.

I cannot, however, understand why the new flexibility is being constrained by the decision to return science to being compulsory for all pupils in key stage 4, with the expectation that most 14 - 16 pupils will continue to spend approximately one-fifth of their time studying science. In 1998, when the disapplication arrangements were introduced, it was recognised that the needs of some pupils are not best served by continuing to have to study science beyond 14: now this flexibility is being removed.

As we develop a 14-19 phase of education and training fit for the 21st century, in a global economy and with greater concerns about international issues, it is difficult to justify why science should remain a compulsory element of the first two years of that phase while languages and the humanities are optional.

14 - 19 Opportunity and Excellence offers no rationale for this position. When science was introduced as a core subject it was at a time when only a minority of pupils had been taught science in primary schools. Now all pupils are taught science from 5 to 14. Surely they will have learned all the science they need for everyday life within those nine years. From age 14 science should join the list of subjects which are optional but which pupils have a statutory entitlement to study.

David Andrews
Royston, Hertsnbsp;

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