Science teachers should speak out

16th October 2009 at 01:00

I, like several other science teachers I have spoken to, have become worried about the downward spiral of science education in this country.

In 2002, the House of Commons science and technology committee described science education as failing to inspire or prepare students for study post-16 or even to provide a general science education at all.

Partially in response to this, new science curricula were developed and introduced in 2006. While it is fair to acknowledge that this has yielded some successes, it is equally fair to acknowledge that since their release, the new specifications and assessments have been criticised harshly by some - including Ofqual - for letting down the students who we would hope would go on to become our scientists, engineers and doctors of the future. Unfortunately, some of the committee's criticisms are still valid today, seven years on.

This summer, the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency quietly sought the opinions of science teachers regarding a review of these "new" statutory science criteria. The low levels of marketing and user-friendliness of the consultation, however, has frustrated many of us who were aware of the process. Further, it would appear that only minor changes will be made to the criteria, sealing the fate of our scientists and engineers of the future for perhaps another five years.

Apathetic and accepting as teachers can sometimes be, the seeming lack of interest by government in the views of the science teaching profession have finally goaded me into some positive action.

I and two other science teachers have this week launched a collaborative website where science teachers can constructively share ideas regarding how to address the failings of the current system of science education and, more importantly, attempt to arrive at a viable better alternative. A science teachers' science curriculum, if you like. This may turn out to be a long-term project, but in the short-term may also produce ideas of immediate value to individual science teachers.

I think that it's time to stop moaning to each other in corridors and classrooms and use our skills to show Government what they are missing by not valuing our opinion when they write their curricula.

Stuart Billington, Science teacher, Cheshire.

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