The FSC says government response to science field trips report 'lacks teeth'
Whilst welcoming the publication of the Government and Ofqual responses to the Science and Technology Committee's report into Practical Experiments in school science lessons and science field trips, the Field Studies Council (FSC) shares the disappointment of the committee's chair.
The committee made a number of recommendations which called for vision and leadership rather than capital or resources. Their requests were pragmatic and achievable, even in the context of the present highly constrained educational and economic landscape. And yet, the government has failed to take responsibility for making significant decisions or providing direction around many of the policy areas which will influence ‘Outdoor Science’ directly.
FSC welcomes the government’s agreement that ‘fieldwork and field trips are essential contributors to good quality science education’. That is an encouraging first step. Also, we value their determination to remove health and safety barriers. Similarly, Ofqual’s recognition of the importance of practical experience in GCE and GCSE Science qualifications may provide support for science practicals and field trips. However, these measures will only help to open doors to ‘Outdoor Science’ through which a declining number of science teachers will choose to walk. This is because in response to the committee’s recommendations made in other areas - curriculum development, teacher training, school inspection, examinations policy and the use of the pupil premium – the government points to an assortment of semi-autonomous bodies, review groups and the wider science ‘community’ as the creative force from which future direction will emerge . FSC believes strongly that a coherent policy to support the re-introduction of a strong and inspirational foundation for practical science teaching –including fieldwork - is unlikely to emerge from this confusing hotchpotch.
Dr Steve Tilling, FSC’s Director of Communications, commented: “The government’s response lacks teeth. The standard response these days seems to be ‘we agree with you, but it’s not our job, leave it to the professionals’. That is not good enough. The select committee’s report made it very clear that there aren’t enough people – including teachers and technicians – with the competence, confidence and commitment to reverse the decline in science field trips. And yet, somehow, the government thinks that a semi-detached and minimalist approach in many policy areas will transform the denuded ‘practical science’ landscape. This is a gamble that UK Science plc does not need to make.”
FSC will submit a formal response to DfE which will reaffirm the FSC’s recommendations that:
- Fieldwork should be a statutory or strongly worded requirement in science;
- Ofsted science subject inspections should report on the quality of fieldwork provision;
- All trainee science teachers should plan and lead at least one field trip as part of their training;
- Ofqual should ensure that assessment is appropriate for, and supportive of, fieldwork.
See the report by following the link below:
Science and Technology Committee report: Practical Experiments in school science lessons and science field trips
Wednesday, November 30, 2011