Staff 'need more power' to teach
A review published today by the Science and Learning Expert Group (SLEG), has called for specialist subject teachers to be "empowered" to ensure the job attracts the most capable people.
The SLEG was commissioned by ministers as one-of-five groups that would provide advice on the country's science and society strategy.
Its chairman Sir Mark Walport said: "We must ensure that teaching is a profession to which the brightest and best aspire.
"This can only be achieved if the teaching workforce is empowered to deliver the best education.
"Our overarching recommendation is that specialist teachers and their subjects need to come to the fore in the teaching of science and mathematics in schools and colleges."
The report acknowledges a "high priority" has been given by Government and the teaching profession to improving science and maths education during the last few years. But it identifies several areas where there is "significant scope" for improvement.
Those include the science and maths education workforce, the
curriculum, qualifications and assessment, and the ethos of the subjects in schools and colleges.
Sir Mark said his recommendations have two major themes, firstly to give science and maths a higher priority and to give teachers more influence over how they are taught. The second major recommendation is for stronger local governance within schools and colleges. "We hope that Government will act on these recommendations," he said. "It is a truism to state that the future of the UK depends critically on the education of future generations. Implementation of our recommendations could help to make our science and mathematics education the envy of the world."
Schools minister Iain Wright said: "There is a lot to be proud of in science education – more and more young people are taking science qualifications, there is record investment in science teachers, the 2007 TIMMS study showed that we lead Europe on maths and science, and we're putting more stretch and challenge into exams. I am pleased Sir Mark Walport applauds the huge strides we have made in the last few years thanks to sustained Government commitment, and that he highlights the UK's strong showing in international comparison studies.
"He raises some important issues expressed to him by stakeholders. Many are already being addressed, such as the need for greater maths content in GCSE science, the need to continue recruiting and supporting specialist teachers and the requirement for science A-levels to have greater stretch and challenge.
"This gives us great encouragement we're on the right track. But we are not complacent.
"There is more we need to do to build confidence in the system, and make sure it is responsive to the needs of stakeholders."
Science and Innovation Minister Lord Drayson said: "The UK is a world-leading science and research nation.
"It is imperative that students are stretched by science education as the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians will be vital for securing strong economic growth in the years ahead."