Test-tube thrills

28th April 2000 at 01:00
THE GOVERNMENT'S concern about the lack of progress in science at the start of secondary school is more than justified. As an Office for Standards in Education report demonstrated last month, pupils make far less progress in science in key stage 3 than in the maths and English that have already become the focus for an extended national strategy.

Transfer to secondary school for most pupils means access at last to proper laboratories. But far from increasing their enthusisam for the subject, research suggests many are turned off science by their early secondary experiences. HMI say that succssful schools suggest it is how science is taught that makes the difference rather than what the curriculum dictates. The new national strategy must find ways to encourage more challenging and exciting practical science teaching.

Teaching and progress in modern languages at the start of secondary schooling are even worse, according to the same OFSTED report. Rather than making languages compulsory in the sixth form and for university entrance, as linguists suggested this week, the Government should also be devising a strategy to establish firmer foundations for language learning.

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