Singled out for particular attention

11th November 1994 at 00:00
Teachers have been unhappy about the programmes of study for single-award science which compresses biology, chemistry and physics into a one GCSE timetable slot. Some were concerned about content while others were worried about the concept of a single GCSE course for science, as opposed to the double award, which covers the three subjects and is worth two GCSEs.

Government advisers have listened to teachers' views and made changes (see box, right).

Carolyn Swain, a School Curriculum and Assessment Authority science officer, stressed that SCAA wanted most pupils to study for the double award, but she confessed that she had no idea whether this would actually happen. At present most key stage 4 students are pursuing a double award but it is unclear whether the current pattern of uptake for the single and double awards will continue.

Many of those who responded during the consultation process and accepted the need for a single award wanted it to be designed for lower attainers, with content selected on that basis.

But Mrs Swain emphasised that the guiding principle was flexibility at KS4 and that the aim was to ensure that pupils were positive about science.

Electricity at key stage 1 was another concern to come out of the consultation. SCAA's remit was to slim the curriculum and Government advisers thought electricity could be more economically taught at KS2.

But the consultation showed that many teachers had made good progress with teaching electricity to five to seven-year-olds, and, moreover, the children were enjoying it. As a result electricity is back in at KS1.

The consultation also showed that classroom teachers and curriculum developers had different concerns at key stages 1 and 2. Teachers were more concerned with curriculum overload, and, given the push to prune, SCAA has come up with what it calls "a satisfactory, manageable solution".

At KS3, most comment in the consultation centred on the lack of chemistry in the proposals so the new Order has been reworded to make clear the amount needed. There was similar worry about chemistry at KS4, although there was general agreement that the balance was better. Again the new Order clarifies what is needed at KS4.

Most of those who responded to the consultation agreed that the revision of experimental and investigative science was an improvement.

As with many of the curriculum subjects, a major concern of science teachers was assessment. Mrs Swain believes much work is needed in developing day-to-day assessment and end of key stage assessment.

It would be "a considerable challenge", she said, for teachers to use their professional judgment and understanding to devise assessment methods for their children and the way they are taught.

Key changes from the draft proposals * presentation improved and introductory paragraphs inserted setting out relationships between areas of study; * at KS1 work on electricity included, and work on the Earth deferred to KS2; * at KS2 work on energy resources and energy transfer deferred to KS3; * at KS4, in the double award, more emphasis on chemistry to improve the balance between chemistry and earth science; * at KS4, in the single award, "Green plants as organisms" replaced by "Humans as organisms - nutrition" and "Living things in their environment"; "Classifying materials - structures and bonding" replaced by "Patterns of behaviour - the Periodic Table."

Key changes from the current Order * content at all key stages reduced; * presentation improved and duplication removed; * some areas of study introduced later than KS1, for example, the Earth has been transferred to KS2 and energy resources to KS3; * broader range of experimental and investigative science; * at KS4, in the single award, the content has been reduced to make it appropriate for GCSE courses taught in 10 per cent of curriculum time. Topics that have been left out of the 1991 single-award science include "Useful products from oil" and "Green plants and organisms"; material designed to enable GCSE examining groups to devise syllabuses which are more accessible to all abilities.

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