Pull up your trews, Jimmy

28th March 2003 at 00:00
I AM haunted by the ghost of Ed's trousers and it's getting in the way of my using this column to make some serious suggestions. These suggestions, if acted on, would improve the lives of all the country's science teachers and would enhance pupil learning.

You don't believe me, do you? Going on past form, you reckon I'm about to propose free Skodas to encourage chemistry graduates to enter the profession, or suggest presenting all lessons in Scots to ward off any infiltration of our education system by the ideals of Daily Mail readers.

And you'll have put money on me saying "erse" a couple of times for a cheap laugh.

I might as well write about the sartorial inelegance of Ed, a now retired colleague, and how I fear that I might have inherited his ill-fitting mantle. Nobody listened to the brilliant idea that two out of three NAB passes plus an exam pass should be enough for a course pass in a national qualification. So what chance have I got?

It's the time of year when science teachers are running around like blue ers . . . are extremely busy getting stragglers through the last of their Standard grade practicals. When S grade was introduced, its originators correctly decided that a science course without practical work was not a science course. It was no less sensible to assert that such work should be assessed.

The assessment to date has been based on several "practical technique" experiments and two investigations, and counts towards one fifth of the pupil's overall grade. There is nothing wrong here in theory. In reality, what happens is that teachers become adept at "getting kids through the practical".

Even someone who has to keep pausing to tuck his shirt into his trousers finds it possible, if time-consuming, to help most children achieve a high grade. (What's wrong with the darned things? I never used to have this trouble.) When Higher Still came out, once again practical work was deemed an integral part of a science course. The difference is that all that is required is a concise experimental write-up, structured after the fashion of "professional" lab reports. This is more meaningful and much less hassle. My brilliant suggestion is that this should be introduced at Standard grade too, not as a contribution to the overall grade but simply as a prerequisite to a pass.

That way our courses might hing thegither the way Ed's shirt and trousers never did.

Gregor Steele thinks he'll have to look beyond discount clothing warehouses for his next legwear.

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