Science practicals spark if you can get pupils to behave

2nd April 2010 at 01:00

So, less practical work is being done in science lessons and one major factor is poor pupil behaviour ("Science practicals put on back burner, claim teachers," March 26). Well, no surprise there.

About 20 years ago, I had a difficult Year 8 group which contained a number of disruptive pupils. The modern "twee" name for them would be "challenging", as if their behaviour was something one should gallantly rise to.

No - they were simply unmanageable in a mainstream science class, likely to squirt any liquid at other pupils if teat pipettes were in use, jog others who might be heating a liquid over a flame, push wires into the sockets and so on. Most surviving science teachers could recognise these dangers and add their own examples.

Purely out of courtesy, I provided my then head with a list of those in that group whom I would be excluding from some practical work for safety reasons. The head informed me I should not.

He brought in the science adviser who observed the class a couple of times disguised (at my request) as a lab technician, working on apparatus in the corner. He told me he hadn't observed any behaviour worse than he saw elsewhere.

As the disruptives had behaved in their usual way, I felt bound to inform him that he was failing in his duty to the parents of the well-behaved majority in not seeking to improve standards. I acknowledged that he would report to the head and that as a result, I would continue to ban any pupil I judged to be potentially dangerous from potentially hazardous practicals.

I heard nothing more from him, or the head, so continued teaching in relative safety until I retired.

Tom Trust, Redruth, Cornwall.

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