Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Science in Barnet

As I have previously reported over the past year I have chaired a working group examining the quality of science teaching in Barnet schools. Last week I was pleased to present a report to the Education and Children Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Over recent years there has been lots of controversy that fewer and fewere students are studying science beyond GCSE's as it is seen as too difficult a subject to study at A-Level and university. As a result some university science departments were shutting and there have been worries that we will have a lack of science graduates to work in Britain's scientific industries and to teach science at school.

In Barnet other councillors and I were worried that if the excellent pupils of Barnet were not studying science beyond GCSE, where would the future science graduates come from in this country.

One way in which the Government has tried to reverse this trend is to introduce a new GCSE science curriculum. Therefore, as part of our review into how science is taught in Barnet's schools the committee decided to look at how successful the new curriculum had been.

We carried out a number of interviews with science teachers and pupils across Barnet.
What was heartening to see was that in Barnet the state of science does not seem to be as bad as some news reports have suggested. In a number of schools there is already a high take-up of science courses at A-Level and many schools also offer more vocational science courses. In addition all schools which we went to had a full compliment of science teachers who had science degrees.

We also found that exam results were also high and so the subjects may not be as hard as the perception that may exist.

In producing our report we found that schools in Barnet were happy with how Barnet Local Authority had helped them in preparing for the new GCSE science curriculum.

An interesting area of our findings were that pupils and teachers found the new GCSE curriculum more interesting than the previous traditional curriculum. This was one of the aims of the new curriculum to open pupil's up to the real world nature of science, by showing how science affects our diets, our climate, nuclear power and many other interesting areas.

However, we found that this change in style compromised the success which our more able pupils can achieve. We found that the more able students were not being challenged by the new curriculum and so may struggle to have a strong understanding of scientific theories if they are to carry on to study science at A-Levels and university. We therefore called on the local authority to offer support to science teachers to provide a challenging curriculum for all pupils particularly for the more able pupils. We also called on the Cabinet Member of Children's Services to write to the Secretary of State for Schools to advise that in Barnet we feel the GCSE science curriculum need to provide a more challenging option for the more able pupils.

In working on this report I found it very interesting looking at how science is taught in our schools and the hard work that the local authority employees and teachers put into helping our pupils to achieve to their potential.

It was also important to note know that it is important to make subjects enjoyable to encourage students to work in school but at the same time, theories and issues must be taught properly so that they also get a full understanding of the subject.

The full report can be found at:

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