A level reforms devalue important practical skills says science education community
- 03 December 2014
The chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee Andrew Miller MP has sent a video letter to the Minister for School Reform, Nick Gibb MP, asking him to rethink changes to the assessment of practical work in the sciences at A level and encourage Ofqual to be more ambitious for practical science in schools.
Following the publication, SCORE (Science Community Representing Education) said:
'We are pleased the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has reminded the minister about the detrimental impact the reforms are likely to have on biology, chemistry and physics education in England. These changes mean achievement in practical work would be reported as pass or fail, separate from the A level examination grade. Practical work is integral to the sciences, but these changes run the risk of devaluing practical work, and may mean students are denied the rich and challenging learning experience they deserve in these subjects.
'SCORE fears that these changes will result in some universities not uniformly asking for evidence of practical working during the admissions process. This would send a strong message to schools and colleges that practical work is no longer a valued element of the A levels, and some teachers may choose to reduce to a minimum the time spent in this area. Practical work is not an optional add-on to science – it is an essential component.
'The science and education communities have been united in their opposition to this reform, and their warnings of the impact it will have. Despite this consensus Ofqual has so far refused to listen to these warnings. We hope that Nick Gibb will take account of the important message in this video letter. SCORE agrees that the current arrangement for assessing practical work is not fit for purpose, but the proposed change does not necessarily solve the problems it is supposed to address. More time for robust research into alternative models is urgently needed.'
In October SCORE held a seminar to discuss the changes with university admissions officers and tutors, and along with many others in the science education community, has campaigned against the reforms and urged Ofqual to reconsider.
Rachel Lambert-Forsyth MSB, director of education and training at the Society of Biology, said:
'Taking part in science practical work at school is an essential part of the learning process therefore the risks these reforms place on the value and inclusion of practical work in schools should not be ignored by the Minister. Valuing practical experience is also increasingly important due to the current skills gap in the bioscience industry. We are pleased that the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has taken the concerns of the science community so seriously and hope that the Minister listens to this powerful message.'
SCORE is a partnership between the Association for Science Education, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the Society of Biology. The SCORE partnership aims to bring collective action and a strategic approach to strengthening education in the sciences of biology, chemistry and physics at 5-19.