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.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today