When Ofqual recently announced the decision to assess practical science work through written exam questions rather than controlled assessment, it created a division of opinion with some, including the Department for Education, left concerned that this would have wider repercussions on the number of students taking up science, and the skills (or potential lack thereof) that they would leave school with.
There is real concern that students taking the new science GCSE will have less opportunity to enjoy practical science work and that this will make science a much less attractive subject choice for students. There are also concerns that taking the emphasis away from practical work will lead to a lack of investment in school science facilities. Ofqual have countered that the move will actually allow teachers greater freedom with regards to the experiments that they can conduct with their students in the classroom.
We certainly believe that the opportunity to experience the practical application of science is key to a fully-rounded science education. That’s why we have worked so hard to put together a range of school science trips that provide students with the kind of 'real-life' experiences of science that it's just not possible to have in the classroom.
For example, one of our most popular trips is to Geneva, where groups have the opportunity to visit CERN, home to the world-famous Large Hadron Collider. Experiences such as this can inspire students, not only to succeed, but to consider a career in science, having seen its practical applications in the ‘real world’.
This week marks British Science Week, a 10-day celebration of science, technology, engineering or maths, making this the perfect time to discuss the future of science education in schools. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the changes to the science GCSE. Will this provide you with greater freedom to enjoy practical science work with your students, or will there need to be further concentration on the theory? Do you think this could lead to a lack of interest in the sciences amongst your students, or are there other ways to make science attractive?