Sweet taste of heresy

3rd January 1997 at 00:00
INVESTIGATIONS BY ORDER: POLICY, CURRICULUM AND SCIENCE TEACHER'S WORK UNDER THE EDUCATION REFORM ACT By J Donnely, A Buchan, E JenkinsP Law and G Welford Studies in Education, Driffield Road, Nafferton YO25 0JL Pounds 14.95

Do you feel you are a victim of circumstance? If so, Investigations by Order is the book for you. It tells the tale of Sc1, the attainment target to do with scientific investigation in the national curriculum for England and Wales. It describes how, once upon a time, some science educators saw Sc1 as the holy grail and felt you should, too. Not for them mass meetings and hands on healing, they had the Big Stick. Or, as the authors prefer, there was an "opportunistic alliance between those with an agenda for change and a government with more power than foresight".

The authors' survey of teachers' views showed there was a steady hostility to this aspect of the Order. "Sc1 did not stem from teacher pressure for change, or met their collective approve." They argue Sc1 is an aberration with no real grounding in the science disciplines or teaching practices. Even cherished beliefs like it gives the less able pupils a chance to perform better are questioned.

They suggest that only the barest minimum of what is to be taught should be a statutory requirement. The teacher could choose the rest from a list of options and this is where investigatory work and curriculum development could take place. So, as you impatiently count variables and umpteen sets of equipment and tell yourself that class size does not matter, you are not alone.

Here is a sweet taste of heresy to get you through the day. You will still have to face Sc1, but at least you can't be blamed for it.

Douglas Newton is reader in education at Newcastle University

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