Ministers criticised for snubbing report over school science

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THE GOVERNMENT has been criticised for failing to act on recommendations which called for improvements to school science experiments and field trips.

The chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, Andrew Miller, said yesterday that the official response to its report was “hugely disappointing”.

The Government rejected the committee’s call for Ofsted to inspect the management of school science laboratories and how well schools allow teachers to stay up to date with developments in the subject.

The committee has also been unable to get a mandatory fieldwork element built into all science qualifications.

Mr Miller said: “There has been no commitment that Ofqual will direct exam boards to require a fieldwork component to science courses and to assess properly students’ practical skills.

“This would be a key incentive for schools to take practical science seriously.

“We also called on the Government to establish a central facility to contain guidance on standard experiments; to enable a better career structure for technical staff to be put in place; to ensure that Ofsted reports on training opportunities for science teachers; and to set out a programme demonstrating what Ministers are doing to encourage students to choose science courses.

“The Government has either not addressed or has simply rejected these recommendations.

“We must make science an exciting subject to study and an obvious route to future employment; the Government agrees with this but has failed to show us how it will address the poor practical science experiences of many students.

“As a committee we will continue to monitor developments in this area but the science community needs to make their own case and, if they support the committee’s recommendations, to make that known to ministers.”

The Government said that routine Ofsted inspections were not a “suitable vehicle” to investigate how well science laboratories are run or whether science teachers have been able to keep up to date with new developments.

It added: “From January 2012, these inspections will focus on the core areas of teaching, pupil achievement, behaviour and safety.”