Science A level practicals face axe despite barage of criticism, says MP

The Guardian is reporting warnings from a senior MP that a move to axe practical coursework from science A-level assessments in England goes against advice from the country’s most respected scientific bodies…

Ministers have pushed ahead with the plans against almost unanimous opposition from organisations such as the Royal Society and the government’s own Council for Science and Technology, said Andrew Miller, the chair of the Commons science and technology committee.

Ofqual, the exams watchdog, has decided to remove lab experiments from A-level assessments in favour of a practical exam that will count towards a separate qualification. The new practical course will be taught from next year and carries only a pass or fail grade.

It will be possible for students to receive the highest A* grade in a science exam even if they fail the practical certificate. The first of the revised exams are to be taken in 2017.

“I am astounded that when the current decision on A-level practical science is receiving so much criticism, that Ofqual are ploughing ahead regardless,” Miller said. “When consultations encounter a widespread concern there should be a serious rethink on the direction of travel.”

Miller fears that the removal of practicals from science A-level gradings could lead to schools neglecting the teaching of experimental skills that are crucial for those who want to pursue careers in the sciences.

The Labour MP raised his concerns in a video letter to Nick Gibb, the minister for school reform, after convening a meeting with some of the country’s leading authorities on science education…

More at: Science A level practicals face axe despite barage of criticism, says MP

 

Great use of video by the Science and Technology Select Committee. Is Andrew Miller right to be so concerned about Ofqual’s proposals over A level science practicals? How would you like to see practicals handled in A level courses and exams? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…

 

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Comments

  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Why would politicians/Ofqual actually listen to people who do the job their decisions effect & who know the consequences?

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Why would politicians/Ofqual actually listen to people who do the job their decisions effect & who know the consequences?

  3. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Fairly typical of politicians of late, ploughing on regardless of “experts” suggesting that it might not be wise to do so

  4. AlfredoNokez1

    SchoolsImprove Hidden agenda: to reduce practical across all key stages, which is undoubtedly linked to COSTS! Equipment & TECHNICIANS!

  5. OliverDrew

    I hated science practicals. Agree with Mary Myatt – what good did it do to dissect a mouse? Practical experiments in the classroom are linked to an outdated view of science, i.e. that experiments form the foundation of science. This is wrong: ideas form the basis of science. All of the most exciting science I witnessed in school took place on the blackboard.

    Science is taught very badly in schools. Children should be encouraged to think for themselves, inquire and postulate, and be guided through the chains of scientific ideas that bloom into magnificent scientific theories. 

    Instead they are led by the nose through practical ‘experiments’, which are nothing of the sort: can you imagine kids actually being allowed to ‘experiment’ in a school lab? St. Trinians style lab explosions spring to mind. Thus by necessity, practical science teaches kids to follow, take orders, do as they are told, not experiment.
    Sure, if kids are taught to conject, scrutinise, then test their own hypotheses in a practical demonstration, then that would be good science. But quite honestly, they would lose very little by not being able to carry out their own testing. The exciting part of science is the ideas, not the practical. 

    Does it surprise me that the scientific establishment objects to this move? Not a bit. This is how the scientific establishment has always reacted to anything, including brilliant new theories.

    There has always been this underlying assumption that children need practical demonstrations to be interested in science. Maybe that is true for kids who have no interest in it anyway. It was never that way for me. I always wondered why we wasted so much time setting up stupid practical experiments to demonstrate stuff we’d already learnt.

  6. OliverDrew

    I hated science practicals. Agree with Mary Myatt – what good did it do to dissect a mouse? Practical experiments in the classroom are linked to an outdated view of science, i.e. that experiments form the foundation of science. This is wrong: ideas form the basis of science. All of the most exciting science I witnessed in school took place on the blackboard.

    Science is taught very badly in schools. Children should be encouraged to think for themselves, inquire and postulate, and be guided through the chains of scientific ideas that bloom into magnificent scientific theories. 

    Instead they are led by the nose through practical ‘experiments’, which are nothing of the sort: can you imagine kids actually being allowed to ‘experiment’ in a school lab? St. Trinians style lab explosions spring to mind. Thus by necessity, practical science teaches kids to follow, take orders, do as they are told, not experiment.
    Sure, if kids are taught to conject, scrutinise, then test their own hypotheses in a practical demonstration, then that would be good science. But quite honestly, they would lose very little by not being able to carry out their own testing. The exciting part of science is the ideas, not the practical. 

    Does it surprise me that the scientific establishment objects to this move? Not a bit. This is how the scientific establishment has always reacted to anything, including brilliant new theories.

    There has always been this underlying assumption that children need practical demonstrations to be interested in science. Maybe that is true for kids who have no interest in it anyway. It was never that way for me. I always wondered why we wasted so much time setting up stupid practical experiments to demonstrate stuff we’d already learnt.

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