Science education for 14-19 learners - May 2008

Summary

In the schools we have inspected, standards in Science are lower than in almost all other subjects. The proportion of pupils who gain grade A*-C at GCSE is increasing, but not as quickly as in Mathematics or English. The number of pupils entered for A-levels in Science has decreased in recent years, whereas the number of pupils entered for A-levels overall has increased. The quality of teaching in Science is generally worse than in other subjects. There is a shortage of specialist teachers in Physics and Chemistry who have relevant qualifications. The numbers of trainee teachers following Physics and Chemistry courses are low, so this shortage is likely to continue. Leadership and management in science departments is not adequate, often because heads of department lack the relevant subject knowledge.
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Recommendations

Secondary schools should:

  • provide science teachers who are not physical science specialists with in-service training to improve their subject and pedagogic knowledge; and
  • increase collaboration with other partners to ensure that, together, they offer a full range of science options to meet the needs of all 14-19 learners and make more effective use of specialist teachers.

14-19 networks should:

  • encourage greater collaboration between providers to offer a wide range of pathways in science for 14-19 learners, including applied and vocational pathways; and
  • make sure that Learning Pathways 14-19 co-ordinators and learning coaches understand fully the possible pathways in science and provide full and unbiased advice to learners.

The Welsh Assembly Government should:

  • develop a science education strategy for Wales that will provide a significant impetus to improving standards and the quality of teaching and leadership in science and in the physical sciences particularly; and
  • support the development of training opportunities for heads of science and for science teachers who are not physical science specialists.

For a full list of recommendations, please download the report.