Headlines: January 11th, 2011

Science education has improved considerably in the last three years in secondary schools, but there has been less progress in primary schools.

Achievement in science was either good or outstanding in just over two thirds of the schools visited. In both primary and secondary phases, teaching was at least good in around three quarters of the schools, but there was more outstanding provision in secondary schools compared to primary schools.

The introduction of the new separate science GCSEs of biology, chemistry and physics in 2006 resulted in a greater number of courses being provided to meet the needs of all students. In 2010 around 12,000 more students than in the previous year were awarded grades A* and A at GCSE in each of the three separate sciences, an increase of 24 per cent.

Of the 31 colleges visited, science was good or outstanding in 15; satisfactory in 11 and inadequate in five. No other post-16 curriculum area in colleges was judged to have such a high proportion of unsatisfactory provision.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Christine Gilbert said: “Science is an important subject and when it is taught well, it raises pupils’ knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of science. It is encouraging to see improvements in the quality of science education. However, it is important that teachers who still lack confidence in scientific enquiry are supported with sufficient professional development to improve their subject knowledge.”

She added: “This report highlights what the best schools are doing to ensure science courses prepare pupils for continuing education, training and living in a technological society. This should be a stimulus to better practice and improvement.”

The report recommends that primary schools ensure their teachers have good opportunities to extend their knowledge, understanding and skills in science to improve their confidence in teaching it. Secondary schools and colleges are being urged to use practical work to develop the students’ understanding and skills and to engage them. They should provide pupils with advice and guidance about curriculum choices which have clear progression routes into good quality post-16 education and training.