Science 5-16: A statement of policy (1985)

The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various sections:

Science for All
Priorities within Science Education
Science in Primary Education
The Transition between Phases of Education
Middle Schools
Science in Secondary Education
A Broad Science Curriculum for all Secondary School Pupils
Science for Pupils with Special Educational Needs
Teacher Supply and Training

Note This document refers to 'the first three years of secondary education' and to 'years 4 and 5'. Since the introduction of the National Curriculum, these have been known as Years 6 to 8, and Years 9 and 10 respectively.

Science 5-16: A statement of policy was prepared for the web by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 28 May 2011.

Science 5-16: A statement of policy (1985)

Department of Education and Science
Welsh Office

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1985
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

[title page]

Department of Education and Science
Welsh Office

A statement
of policy


March 1985

[page ii (unnumbered)]

Crown copyright 1985
First published 1985
Fifth impression 1986
ISBN 0 11 270572 3

[page iii (unnumbered)]



Science for All7
Priorities within Science Education11
Science in Primary Education15
The Transition between Phases of Education32
Middle Schools35
Science in Secondary Education37
    A Broad Science Curriculum for all Secondary School Pupils69
    The first three years70
    Years 4 and 575
Science for Pupils with Special Educational Needs86
Teacher Supply and Training87

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1. Science should have a place in the education of all pupils of compulsory school age, whether or not they are likely to go on to follow a career in science or technology. All pupils should be properly introduced to science in the primary school, and all pupils should continue to study a broad science programme, well suited to their abilities and aptitudes, throughout the first five years of secondary education.

2. The Secretary of State for Education and Science announced in January 1984 the Government's intention of publishing broadly agreed curricular objectives for the components of the school curriculum as a means towards improving the performance of pupils. This paper is published as a statement of policy for science education in schools for the compulsory period and as a contribution towards the definition of more detailed objectives in that field.

3. It draws on the many comments received by the Department of Education and Science and the Welsh Office in response to their consultative paper Science Education in Schools, which was published in 1982. That paper proposed that science education should be regarded as a continuum from 5 to 16. It suggested ways of developing science in primary schools and said that throughout the period of compulsory secondary education every school should adopt the policy of giving all pupils a broad science programme which, moreover:

allows the highest existing standards of science education to be maintained;

caters fully for pupils who will be unable to reach those standards; and

gives genuinely equal curricular opportunities in science to boys and girls.

Science Education in Schools set out some of the implications of these objectives for curriculum development; for assessment, including the development of new syllabuses for 16+ examinations in the light of the emerging national criteria; for teacher training institutions and others responsible for initial and in-service teacher training; for local education authorities in reviewing their policies for the curriculum and in managing their teacher forces; and, not least, for the schools themselves.

4. The Secretaries of State for Education and Science and for Wales are grateful to all who commented on Science Education in

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Schools. The number and quality of the responses indicate clearly that there is widespread recognition of the need to improve science education and a healthy debate within and outside the education service on the fundamental aims of science education and on the ways in which change can be brought about.

5. Since the publication of Science Education in Schools there have been a number of other important developments at the national level. The Secretaries of State have announced their decision on the future organisation of 16+ examinations, and have approved and published the national criteria for GCSE examinations, including those for physics, chemistry, biology and science; the Secondary Examinations Council has set in hand the preparation of grade criteria in physics, chemistry and biology; HM Inspectors in England have distributed their discussion paper Science in Primary Schools (HMSO); the Royal Society has published Science Education 11-18 and its associated papers; the Government has offered grants to LEAs from September 1984 to support in-service training for science coordinators in primary schools and heads of science departments in secondary schools, and support through Education Support Grant from September 1985 for the development of science education in primary schools; the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative has been launched; the Assessment of Performance Unit has continued its programme of work and publications, including the first group of reports for teachers; the Microelectronics in Education Programme has made a significant contribution; the Lower Attaining Pupils (LAPS) programme has commenced as has a related project in Wales; and the work of the Secondary Science Curriculum Review, an extensive curriculum development project under the aegis of the School Curriculum Development Committee and the Association for Science Education, is under way in the substantial majority of local education authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

6. Notwithstanding the inevitable constraints imposed by resource limitations, there is a climate for change in science education. The purpose of this statement of policy is to define a framework within which that change can take place. It calls for action by local authorities, curriculum developers, teacher trainers, examination boards and not least by teachers and the schools themselves.

Science for All

7. In the view of the Secretaries of State, the case for devoting the resources, time and energy needed to bring about change on the scale required rests on the importance of science education to the pupil and to society as a whole. Science and technology permeate almost every aspect of daily life. Each of us needs to be

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able to bring a scientific approach to bear on the practical, social, economic and political issues of modern life.

8. An introduction to scientific method contributes to the preparation of children and young people for adult and working life as well as to their intellectual development. It offers practical opportunities for careful observation; measurement; communication in a variety of forms; prediction from perceived patterns and regularities; appreciation of the relationship between cause and effect; and for the solving of problems in an everyday context.

9. Science can and should foster a range of desirable personal qualities. It should encourage curiosity and healthy scepticism, respect for the environment, the critical evaluation of evidence, an appreciation of a significant part of our cultural heritage and an insight into man's place in the world which will complement the contributions of other elements in the school curriculum.

10. In an advanced society the sheer rapidity of technological change requires high quality scientific, technical and engineering manpower on an adequate scale. It is an essential function of science education up to the age of 16 to lay the necessary foundations and to offer appropriate challenges for those, including the most able, who will proceed to further education and training in science and technology and may go on to make personal contributions to the nation's scientific effort. The science education which is provided for the most able should foster practical abilities and an understanding of science and its significance which goes beyond the acquisition of scientific knowledge alone. But the propositions set out above are applicable to the whole of the population and, in the view of the Secretaries of State, make it essential to provide science for all.

Priorities within Science Education

11. The essential characteristic of education in science is that it introduces pupils to the methods of science. So that scientific competence can be developed to the full, the courses provided should therefore give pupils, at all stages, appropriate opportunities to:

make observations;

select observations relevant to their investigations for further study;

seek and identify patterns and relate these to patterns perceived earlier;

suggest and evaluate explanations of the patterns;

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design and carry out experiments, including appropriate forms of measurement, to test suggested explanations for the patterns of observations;

communicate (verbally, mathematically and graphically) and interpret written and other material;

handle equipment safely and effectively;

use their knowledge in conducting investigations; and

bring their knowledge to bear in attempting to solve technological problems.

12. Science education should at the same time give opportunities, through practical work and otherwise, for the acquisition of knowledge and understanding. Just what knowledge of facts and principles should be taught is a matter for continual review, in the light of changes and developments in science and technology in the wider world.

13. In reviewing policies for, and practice in, science education for pupils throughout the compulsory age range, the Secretaries of State believe that LEAs, schools, teachers, parents, examination boards, employers, higher and further education institutions and others concerned may find it helpful to analyse what is provided in terms of the following ten principles:

(a) Breadth: all pupils should be introduced to the main concepts from the whole range of science; to the technological applications and social consequences of science; and to a range of scientific skills and processes;

(b) Balance: all pupils should be able to continue their study of each of the main areas of science throughout the compulsory age range; and all science courses should achieve a balance between the acquisition of scientific knowledge and the practice of scientific method;

(c) Relevance: science education should draw extensively on the everyday experience of pupils, and should be aimed at preparing pupils as effectively as possible for adult and working life;

(d) Differentiation: the intellectual and practical demands made by science education should be suited to the abilities of the pupils, in ways which will allow the highest existing standards to be maintained for the most able while catering fully for pupils unable to reach those standards and providing for all pupils the essential experience of broad and balanced science;

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(e) Equal Opportunities: science education should give genuinely equal curricular opportunities to boys and to girls and should in particular actively seek ways of exciting the interest of girls in those aspects of science which some girls at present find unappealing or intimidating;

(f) Continuity: as science education develops in primary and middle schools, it is increasingly important for the school to which pupils subsequently transfer to give attention to building on the foundations already laid; and links between secondary schools and further and higher education institutions should be fostered so that those institutions are better equipped to build on newly developed courses in the schools;

(g) Progression: courses should be designed to give progressively deeper understanding and greater competence, not only within individual schools but also over the compulsory period as a whole, whatever the age of transfer between schools may be;

(h) Links across the curriculum: in primary schools teachers should link work in science with the development of the language and mathematical competence of their pupils, and with the practical component of the curriculum more generally; in secondary schools science teachers should work closely with their colleagues, not only in mathematics, CDT and home economics departments but also more widely, to ensure that the generally applicable aspects of science, not least its investigative approaches, are firmly established in the curriculum, and that the contribution which other subjects can make to the teaching of science and vice versa is fully exploited;

(i) Teaching methods and approaches: science is a practical subject, and should be taught at all stages in a way which emphasises practical, investigative and problem solving activity;

(j) Assessment: progress in science should be assessed, both within schools and in public examinations, in ways which recognise the importance of the skills and processes of science as well as rewarding the ability to reproduce and apply scientific knowledge; and which allow all pupils to show what they can do rather than what they cannot do.

14. The implementation of these principles would represent for many pupils a substantial advance over the science education which is at present offered. Many - but by no means all - of the developments necessary will require extra resources, and the pace of progress is bound to depend on the rate at which those

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resources can be made available. An increased emphasis on science for many pupils, and on practical science for all, has implications for teacher time, for equipment and for accommodation. Falling rolls in secondary schools should permit some redeployment of resources and the first essential is to use the resources which are available to the best possible effect. Much significant work has already been done, and the Secretaries of State look to all concerned to make plans for the future now, so that the education service can be placed in the best possible position to use the resources at its disposal.

Science in Primary Education

15. There are encouraging signs of progress in many parts of the country, but it it still the case that too few pupils in primary schools are systematically introduced to science. The task for all concerned is to define policies for the development of science in primary schools, and to plan and implement strategies for putting those policies into effect which will draw on the experience of earlier initiatives.

16. It is a matter for regret that the initial impact of initiatives such as the Nuffield Junior Science Project and the Schools Council's Science 5-13 Project was limited. These projects had considerable influence on the participating teachers but seldom a lasting influence in schools, almost always because the projects depended for their survival on external support for the teachers, which was usually available only for a limited period. Evidence collected in the later 1970s showed how much more needed to be achieved. HMI surveys of primary education and of first schools showed that only a minority of schools had effective programmes for the teaching of science.

17. More recent evidence demonstrates that substantial efforts are now being made in this field, by LEAs and by the schools themselves. The 1983 APU survey of science at age 11 reported that 90 per cent of the schools covered said that they included science activities in the curriculum, spending on average about 5 per cent of lesson time on them. About 55 per cent of the schools surveyed reported that a member of staff had a post of responsibility for science.

18. The quickening interest in primary school science has been matched by developments at national level:

HMI's recent discussion paper Science in Primary Schools analyses the variety of ways in which children of primary school age can be encouraged to think scientifically and to take part in practical scientific activities, and makes

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suggestions for action at the LEA and school level which the Secretaries of State commend;

the APU has recently begun publication of its series of science reports for teachers, including two on science at age 11;

the Association for Science Education is establishing itself as a validating organisation for in-service training programmes in science for primary as well as secondary teachers, covering both certificate and diploma in-service courses; and the DES and the Welsh Office have made grants to LEAs available from September 1984 to promote in-service training for' primary science coordinators;

the British Association for the Advancement of Science has established a scheme of "Awards for Young Investigator's" to encourage scientific and technological interest and activity among children aged 8-12, concentrating especially on work carried out to complement the normal curriculum;

science in primary schools is to be one of the areas to receive support under the arrangements for Education Support Grant, which will come into effect in 1985.

19. In the light of all of these developments, the Secretaries of State consider that LEAs should, within the resources available to them, continue to develop and publish not only policies for science education in the primary schools in their areas but also plans for implementing those policies.

20. Experience suggests that certain features are crucial if such plans are to succeed:

(a) each school concerned should include the teaching of science among the curricular aims which it formally adopts, should develop programmes of work and should monitor its own progress in putting its aims in effect;

(b) the head teacher should be committed to the principle of science education for primary pupils and should be accountable to the governors and to the LEA for the rate at which progress is made;

(c) the school needs to have at its disposal at least one teacher with the capacity, knowledge and insight to make science education for primary pupils a reality; in the case of small schools such consultant teachers may need to offer advice to more than one school;

(d) the objective should be that all class teachers, without exception, should include at least some science in their

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teaching, making use of their colleagues' specialist knowledge and experience as necessary;

(e) teachers need continuing access to permanent points of support outside the school, such as advisers or advisory teachers, a teacher training institution, teachers' centre or SATRO.

21. Since most children in primary schools will continue to be taught by class teachers, the first step is to deploy to the best advantage those teachers who have an appropriate background knowledge of science. They can act as science consultants or experts in the primary school, stimulate science teaching throughout the school and provide help and support for their colleagues. This support may take the form of assistance with the preparation of programmes of work, individual lessons or materials, and it may involve taking on part of the teaching of some classes, for example with older pupils. Encouragement and support from the head teacher and from the LEA are also essential.

22. The greatest obstacle to the continued improvement of science in primary schools is that many existing teachers lack a working knowledge of elementary science. Making good this deficiency is a long term aim which calls for a range of provision within and outside the school. Initial training for primary school teachers is discussed later in this paper. In-service training and support are particularly important in this context. The main elements needed are:

(a) courses and materials which offer or consolidate a foundation of scientific knowledge which will give teachers the confidence necessary to teach science;

(b) courses which enable teachers themselves to practise scientific skills and methods; and

(c) continuous support within and outside the school over a long period.

23. LEAs can help to promote science teaching in their primary schools through programmes of in-service training, through the use of consultant teachers, advisory teachers and the advisory service, and through working parties which produce written guidance. There is now a considerable amount of material and experience on which to draw and the programme of work to be supported by the use of Education Support Grants will both draw on that experience and enhance it.

24. What should primary science include? In the view of the Secretaries of State, pupils need to grow accustomed from an early age to the scientific processes of observing, measuring, describing,

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investigating, predicting, experimenting and explaining. Appropriate work can and should begin in infant classes. Pupils should also use their science in technological activities which pose realistic problems to be solved and involve designing and making. Science and technology in the primary school should form, and be experienced as, a continuum.

25. Much of the work in science should arise from children's spontaneous interests and from their natural curiosity. But they should also gain a progressively deeper understanding of some of the central concepts of science. Pupils need to meet and grasp certain fundamental facts and ideas if they are to make significant progress in their scientific studies. Teachers need to be clear about which scientific concepts are to be used or developed, in ways appropriate to the age and maturity of the pupils, in any particular piece of work. Certain facets of science require a carefully organised sequence of teaching if concepts are to be thoroughly grasped and progression from year to year ensured. Teachers will need help and support if they are to meet this demanding objective successfully.

26. HMI's paper Science in Primary Schools sets out the following broad criteria for the selection of content:

(a) the content should, wherever possible, be related to the experiences of the children;

(b) it should, in accordance with their stages of development, provide them with knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas to help them to understand their own physical and biological environments and to understand themselves;

(c) it should, where possible, lay the foundations for a progressively deepening knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and facts that will be useful to them as citizens;

(d) it should include examples of the application.of science to real-life. problems, including those of technology.

27. Science in Primary Schools suggests that aspects of science that children should meet in the primary school should include the study of:
(a) living things and their interaction with the environment;

(b) materials and their characteristics;

(c) energy and materials;

(d) forces and their effects.

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The Secretaries of State commend these suggestions on criteria for the selection of content, and on aspects to be covered, as a starting point for the definition by LEAs and schools of the content of science education in primary schools.

28. Science should also be related to other areas of the curriculum. Practical inquiry by children in groups or as a class involves debate and discussion as well as reading and writing and the importance of effective communication of the results of practical work can be instilled from the earliest stages. Often there is a need for the application of mathematical skills such as measuring, computation or the construction and interpretation of graphs. Science teaching may start from or lead to the study of geographical themes or historical events and characters. Movement and physical education can include good examples of ideas about energy. But while science can be taught and learned through studies in such areas of the curriculum, care must be taken that work of this sort which is thought of by teachers as science is indeed based on scientific principles and processes.

29. An essential part of a primary school's policy for science education must therefore be to produce a properly constructed scheme of work and to make arrangements for assessing and recording pupils' scientific competence. The scheme of work should:

emphasise progression in content, concept and intellectual demand, and in scientific skills and processes, appropriate to the children's ages and abilities;

avoid risks of sex stereotyping;

identify the fundamental aspects of science to which every pupil should be introduced;

secure appropriate differentiation for children of differing abilities;

contain not only a list of topics but also advice on suitable approaches, on practical work that has been found successful and on resources that are available within the school and outside it;

be drawn up as a result of discussion between the head teacher and all of the staff, in the light of discussion of LEA documents where appropriate and with support from staff from outside the school;

reflect discussion with other primary schools and with the schools to which pupils will transfer, so that receiving schools are clear about the range and depth of the science education provided in the primary school.

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30. Monitoring procedures are necessary to discover how far objectives are being met and what changes may be necessary. The work of the Assessment of Performance Unit will continue to provide evidence of national performance in science at age 11: the implications of its findings should be considered by all concerned. Individual records should show the range of work in science already encountered by each pupil, the level at which it has been tackled, and how successfully the skills, ideas and knowledge involved have been mastered. Opportunities will be needed, on a regular basis, to review what has been learned.

31. Such an approach to primary school science makes considerable demands on the knowledge and skill of teachers, and a sustained and co-operative effort under the leadership of the LEA will be needed to make it a reality. The Secretaries of State are convinced that the results will justify that effort.

The Transition between Phases of Education

32. The development of science in primary (or first) schools imposes an added responsibility on the schools to which the pupils transfer: they have to ensure, if the goal of making science from 5 to 16 a continuum is to be realised, that the pupils' early start is neither ignored nor undervalued but rather reinforced and exploited in their subsequent work. Suitable arrangements for ensuring continuity and progression are therefore essential.

33. The detailed assessment and recording of pupils' progress in their primary schools and the transmission of pupils' records to receiving schools will help to inform teachers in those schools what science has been studied, what concepts met, what knowledge covered and what skills practised. It is highly desirable that primary schools in a given area should institute some simple co-operative procedures over the content of science education, such as a commonly agreed core of science topics, to minimise the difficulties which are bound to arise, especially where receiving schools draw from a large number of primary schools.

34. Liaison between primary (or first) and receiving schools, and among primary schools themselves, is a substantial task, which requires determined backing by the LEA and its advisory staff if it is to succeed. LEAs can do much to help this process by including the arrangements for transition between the phases of education in their policies for the curriculum.

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Middle Schools

35. Middle schools have a double task: to build on what has been achieved in the first schools and to prepare their pupils for the upper schools. Their educational purpose is indeed to fulfil this double task. Much of what is said in this paper about science in primary education and in the first years of secondary education, and - with added force - about the need for progression and for continuity between successive schools, applies also to middle schools. HMl's surveys of 9-13 middle schools in England and (yet to be published) 8-12 middle schools provide important evidence about current practice. The 9-13 survey notes that although standards of work were broadly satisfactory in most of the schools visited, some schools need to consider whether more time should be given to science if pupils are to develop an understanding of a sufficient range of ideas and to be proficient in a range of scientific processes. Middle schools should provide not only an extension of the modes of primary education, but also - as is sometimes not the case - an introduction to the modes of secondary education.

36. Science teachers in middle schools therefore need to posses not only the knowledge and skills required of a good junior class teacher but also a good knowledge of science over a broad front and an understanding of its methods; and middle schools need to provide some specialist teaching in the later years. LEAs should take steps to ensure that appropriate in-service training is provided and that there is effective continuity of science education between first, middle and upper schools.

Science in Secondary Education

37. The central objective of national policy for science in secondary education in England and Wales is that all pupils should be given a broad programme of science, well suited to their abilities and aptitudes, for the full five years of compulsory secondary education. That objective was set out in Science Education in Schools, and has received widespread support.

38. The principles set out in paragraph 13 should all be taken into account in planning science education in secondary schools. Each of them is further discussed below.


39. Science for all pupils up to the age of 16 should include coverage at an appropriate level of the basic concepts of biology, chemistry and physics. Astronomy and the earth sciences can provide a suitable context for important concepts to be developed. Teaching should also be closely related to everyday and industrial

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applications of science: science and technology are intimately linked, and understanding of scientific concepts can and should be greatly enhanced by the study of their technological applications. The social and economic implications of scientific and technological activity also have a place, always provided that the teaching is essentially concerned to foster education in science itself.

40. But the objective of broad science cannot be determined solely in terms of listing items of syllabus content: full weight must be given to the development of scientific skills and processes as well as to knowledge and understanding. Ample opportunity must be given for the skills listed in paragraph 11 to be practised if the science education provided is to be genuinely broad.

41. The implication of these requirements is that if room is to be found for new components, existing science courses must be slimmed without abandoning essential items. The Secretaries of State are convinced that a reduction in the overall amount of factual knowledge required by present syllabuses is unavoidable if the breadth and depth required is to be secured; that such a reduction can be achieved without damaging the interests of those who will go on to scientific or technological careers; and that there is increasing support within the scientific community for such a slimming of existing courses.


42. Far too few pupils at present follow balanced science courses throughout the compulsory period of secondary education: at least three quarters of pupils do not study elements of each of the three main sciences, whether separately or as part of a general science course, in years 4 and 5. As is well known, although the proportion of girls studying science has been increasing steadily, participation by girls in the study of the physical sciences once options have been chosen is still much lower than that by boys, and the converse is true for biology. Statistics for those leaving school in England in 1982 show that 51 per cent of boys had attempted GCE O-level or CSE examinations in physics, but only 17 per cent of girls had done so; 57 per cent of girls, but only 29 per cent of boys, had attempted such examinations in biology.

43. The first essential in achieving balance is to ensure that all pupils, including all girls as well as all boys, are able to pursue their studies of both the biological and the physical sciences up to the age of 16; the implications of genuinely equal curricular opportunity are discussed further below.

44. Balance, like breadth, should extend beyond syllabus content: the relative weights given to the different components of science education, including those given to the development of

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skills as well as to the mastery of concepts, should emerge as a result of conscious planning.


45. Although there are some impressive exceptions, too much of the time spent learning science by too many pupils consists of the accumulation of facts and principles which have little perceived, or indeed actual, relevance to their daily lives as young people or as adults. Few science courses draw on the experiences that pupils can bring from their everyday lives. Most experiments and many illustrative examples are laboratory-based and divorced from the present-day world. Too many examples of the technological applications of science included in science courses and examinations reflect past developments rather than current ones.

46. Science education should be presented and assessed in a way that allows the pupils to see its direct relevance to their lives; and it should draw on the environment and experience of the pupils themselves. One test for the inclusion of topics or approaches in a science course - and for the balance between physical and biological science - should be their value to pupils, of both sexes and all abilities, in their adult and working lives in the world of the future. Many topics in existing courses which fail that test could with advantage be eliminated.


47. Ways must be found of catering for the needs of pupils of all abilities which will be sufficiently demanding to test the ablest pupils to the full, and encourage those of average ability and below to new levels of achievement. This is one of the most demanding of all the objectives listed here, with no single solution, but at its core lie success in learning, the pupil's own sense of that success, the generation of interest and the maintenance of individual motivation to learn. If the goal set by the Secretary of State for Education and Science of bringing 80-90 per cent of 16 year old pupils up to the standard of performance now expected of the average pupil is to be achieved for science, then the choice of content, approach and context needs to allow all pupils, including the least able, to demonstrate their capabilities to the full.

48. Differentiation of treatment for differing groups of pupils is unavoidable; the goal should be to define a baseline, not unlike the Cockcroft Report's Foundation List for the teaching of mathematics, which will set out the essential components of the syllabus for all pupils, including the least able, but will also, notwithstanding the difficulties of the task, form a basis which can be built on by defining additional elements for some pupils. Curriculum development will be necessary here, not least through

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the work of the Secondary Science Curriculum Review; such work will contribute directly to the elimination of the inessential parts of current syllabuses.

Equal opportunities

49. The science education of many girls is at present inadequate. Social and psychological influences, with their roots in early childhood experience and in parental and social expectations, are not to be underestimated, but curriculum planning in schools and the organisation of option systems are often at fault in not opposing such influences. The failure of many girls to acquire a broad education in the main areas of science means that they are deprived of essential skills and knowledge and the nation loses scientific and technological expertise. Similar losses arise in the case of boys who do not study biology in years 4 and 5.

50. The aim of every school should be to provide genuine equality of opportunity and balanced courses for all pupils. Particular attention should be given to the expectations and attitudes of girls when reaching decisions on style and methods of teaching, on curriculum content and on timetabling arrangements. Similarly subject and careers teachers and careers officers should give even more attention to the consequences of their advice on career paths, and seek always to avoid sex stereotyping.


51. Under present circumstances few secondary schools can rely on any degree of common experience in science on the part of their new pupils. Continuity between schools is, in practice, far too often ignored. Further action at the local level, along the lines set out in paragraphs 32-34, is urgently needed, to eliminate undue repetition of work in the first year of secondary and, especially, upper schools. Schools should address this issue specifically when establishing their curricular aims and objectives.

52. Action is also needed to ensure that there is effective continuity between science education up to the age of 16 and what is studied thereafter. The Government's proposals for the clearer definition of what examinations at 16+ are about and how pupils have performed in them should help further and higher education institutions to build their courses on the work already done in schools; they will also contribute to developments in A-level courses and to further developments in provision for the 16-19 age range. Furthermore, schools have much to contribute in the process of liaison with employers about the development of science education. Many of the changes proposed and under way in science education need to be explained to employers, whose view of

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priorities may be conditioned by their own experience at school when science for all was not the order of the day.


53. Courses of science education should form a coherent series of experiences for pupils as they progress through secondary education. The introduction of balanced courses for all pupils up to the age of 16 makes it easier to secure coherence and progression. To make the most of this opportunity, the scheme of work should foster the logical development of ideas in science and technology. It should, at each stage, build on and take forward what has been done before; and it should avoid unnecessary repetition.

54. Progression of this sort does not happen automatically: it must be planned for. Schools should, therefore, address the issue in their statement of aims and objectives and should monitor their own success in meeting them.

Links across the curriculum

55. Science has much to contribute to many other areas of the curriculum; and science in turn has much to gain from what is taught elsewhere. Pupils need to realise that scientific principles and approaches are applied not only to deliberately constructed experiments carried out in science laboratories but also in many other situations. They should become accustomed to using their science in different circumstances inside and outside schools so that they are able to apply their knowledge and skills to whatever problem is being considered. Science can contribute in this way to the teaching and learning of subjects such as mathematics, CDT, home economics and geography, and most other subjects and elements of the curriculum also have aspects which can and should be treated scientifically.

56. The role of science in fostering the use of language is of special importance, and should be the subject of working links between science and English and, where appropriate, Welsh departments. There is a particular need for close links between science and mathematics departments. Mathematics is inseparable from science, and it is essential that there should be a clear understanding between the mathematics and science departments in each school in regard to the kind of mathematics taught, when and how it is taught and the degree of competence to be expected of pupils at different stages of the syllabuses.

57. Links between teachers of science and CDT teachers are vital if a damaging and unnecessary division between science and technology is to be avoided. All science courses should have a technological content, and all technology courses should have a

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scientific content. Science courses should help pupils to identify practical possibilities which can be exploited by the application of science in technology. Having identified and specified technological problems, pupils should be given opportunities to develop the art of seeking possible solutions and evaluating them. Hitherto problems tackled in science courses have rarely required pupils to use their scientific knowledge and skills in the design and development of a device or system capable of providing an answer to a particular need. Courses need to be developed which foster the essential scientific content, skills and processes while at the same time providing opportunities for related technological work.

Teaching methods and approaches

58. Within the framework of national and local curricular policies on science, it is for individual schools and teachers to reach their own decisions on the detailed approach in the classroom and laboratory to the realisation of the school's objectives for science education. The Secretaries of State consider, however, that it will be helpful to set out some of the factors which they believe to be conducive to the success of the national policy objectives defined in this paper.

59. They believe that science teachers have much to gain from considering the implications for science of the variety of methods defined in paragraph 243 of the Cockcroft Report as desirable means for the more effective teaching of mathematics:



practical work;


discussion; and

consolidation and practice.

60. Such a range of teaching approaches seems to the Secretaries of State to be essential for the teaching of science as well as of mathematics; the key to success lies in flexibility and variety within such a repertoire. In particular, opportunities for pupils to contribute their own ideas to discussion are important, with the object of establishing that in science recourse to experiment and experimental data is the principal means of testing whether a hypothesis is supported by evidence, and if so how far its implications extend. Pupils should be given the opportunity to test their own ideas. The opportunity for pupils to engage in experimental work in which a variety of practical and investigative

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skills are developed under the supervision of the teacher is also of crucial importance. The balance in practical work should be more towards solving problems and less towards illustrating previously taught theory.


61. Secondary schools, like primary schools, need to monitor the progress of individual pupils throughout their school careers and to devise methods of assessment which will promote the school's objectives for science teaching. The systematic assessment of pupils will help teachers to identify learning problems and choose the teaching methods most likely to be effective with their pupils.

62. The Secretaries of State believe that changes in examination syllabuses at 16+ will help to promote the reforms in science teaching that are needed and, when commenting on the draft national criteria for science subjects, they have been guided by a number of general principles described in the following paragraphs. These principles will apply to the GCSE examinations to be set for the first time in 1988. They should also apply to internal assessment by schools throughout the secondary phase.

63. First, they believe that examinations should place greater emphasis than has hitherto been the case upon scientific method. Syllabuses should not be overloaded with factual content; the content which is included should be readily usable as a vehicle for developing the intellectual and practical skills of science, and it should be so used by teachers.

64. Second, awareness and knowledge of the relationship between science and technology should be included among the objectives of any science syllabus. The study of technological problems, at first as well as second hand, should be incorporated in syllabus materials. Many of the assessments in science examinations should be made by reference to the applications of science, always related to a particular area of scientific knowledge.

65. Third, assessments of scientific knowledge applied in environmental, social and economic contexts should be based on the candidates' appreciation of the significance of scientific knowledge and understanding in the wider context: questions posed should require, to be answered successfully, appropriate scientific knowledge.

66. Fourth, there should be full opportunities for candidates of all abilities entered for the examination to show what they know and can do rather than what they do not know and cannot do. Abler pupils should be given questions which test their full potential; weaker pupils should have adequate opportunities to demonstrate, and to experience, success. This will require the use of

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differentiated approaches to assessment in any science syllabuses for which the full range of grades are awarded; differentiated papers will normally be required in any syllabuses covering the physical sciences.

67. Fifth, assessment of experimental work in a practical context seems to the Secretaries of State to be essential, in order to assess the candidates' ability to use the combination of intellectual, organisational and manipulative skills which characterises science. Experimental skills cannot be fully tested solely by means of a written examination.

68. The national subject criteria for the GCSE will incorporate grade criteria, as they are developed, whose purpose will be to define in broad terms what pupils should know, understand and be able to do in order to obtain particular grades in a given subject. The Secondary Examinations Council is preparing drafts of grade criteria for physics, chemistry and biology, and is expecting to begin preparing drafts for science in autumn 1985: the drafts will be the subject of full consultation with those concerned. The Secretaries of State attach great importance to these developments, which they see as providing the main elements of targets for attainment in science subjects at age 16.

A Broad Science Curriculum for all Secondary School Pupils

69. The detailed translation of the objectives set out in this paper into curricula and syllabuses for the secondary phase, and detailed decisions on the methods of teaching, are matters for the schools to resolve acting within the framework of national and local policies for the curriculum and within the constraints of the resources available. The Secretaries of State look to the Secondary Science Curriculum Review, drawing as it does on the energies of some 3000 practising science teachers, to demonstrate ways in which, within the resources available, the principles defined in this paper can be put into effect.

The first three years

70. In almost all secondary schools, the curriculum of all pupils requires the study of science throughout the first three years of secondary education. Many schools have adopted the pattern, which the Secretaries of State recognise to be an appropriate response to the conflicting pressures on curriculum time, of allocating about 10 per cent of total curriculum time to science in the first two years, and about 15 per cent in the third year. This amount of time is used in a variety of ways. The most common pattern is a course in combined science in the first two years, often followed by a separation into physics, chemistry and biology courses, particularly for average and more able pupils, in the third

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year. Many combined science schemes have been published, particularly for work in the first two years.

71. Science courses over the first three years often include a simple introduction to astronomy and microbiology. Pupils may also be offered, sometimes in association with work in other subjects, elements of environmental science and earth science. Increasingly there is a move to incorporate microelectronics and some schools associate a technology component with the science; both these arrangements can be beneficial. For most pupils a broad and reasonably balanced science curriculum is provided, often with some applications of science identified and presented.

72. In the view of the Secretaries of State, the elements of a pattern of good practice are thus in sight for the teaching of science in the first three years of secondary education which should, as resources allow, become the rule. In addition to meeting the objectives of breadth, balance and relevance, the Secretaries of State attach great importance to encouraging effective learning through extensive practical experience. In the first three secondary years the experience of scientific activity is still new and exciting to many pupils. Skilled teaching, well matched to the abilities of individual pupils, can capitalise on that sense of excitement and produce continuing enthusiasm for science.

73. It is essential that work should be pitched at an appropriate level for the pupils. Their capability in understanding and retaining scientific concepts varies greatly and requires differing provision to be made, whether within a class or between classes. The task is to provide challenging courses for all pupils while maintaining and extending the standards currently achieved by the most able.

74. Schools adopt differing patterns in the organisation of the science curriculum in the third year. Where separate science subjects are at present offered as O-level or CSE courses in the fourth and fifth years, many teachers feel that pupils should be introduced to the separate sciences in the third year, irrespective of what individual option choices may turn out to be. Lower-attaining pupils are sometimes offered different courses at this stage, with the possible consequence of reducing the range of choice open to them in years 4 and 5. Changes in the structure of provision in years 4 and 5 will have important consequences for what is provided at this stage. In the view of the Secretaries of State, the objective should be to devise broad science courses throughout the five years of secondary education which will reduce the need for sharp discontinuities at the beginning or end of the third year. The Secondary Science Curriculum Review has much to contribute in investigating the feasibility of differing approaches to putting that objective into effect.

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Years 4 and 5

75. The responses to Science Education in Schools indicated a wide range of views among those within and outside the education service about the organisation of the science curriculum in years 4 and 5. There was, however, a considerable measure of agreement that the only way in which the claims of a broad and balanced science education, and those of a broad and balanced total curriculum, could be reconciled was by a maximum time allocation for science of about 20 per cent of the total curriculum time - 8 or 9 periods in a 40-period week - in years 4 and 5. The Secretaries of State now therefore recommend that such an allocation should be the basis for planning the organisation of science within years 4 and 5; and that an allocation for science of about 20 per cent of total curriculum time should not be exceeded by any pupils, including those who are expected to go on to study one, two or three science subjects at A-level. Any greater allocation of time to science in years 4 and 5 seems certain to damage irreparably the prospects for overall balance in the curriculum of the pupils concerned.

76. The Secretaries of State believe that, within the maximum allocation of 20 per cent of total curriculum time, each pupil is entitled to a programme of study which, however it is organised, will incorporate substantial elements from each of the three main sciences. New ways need to be found of translating that entitlement into reality. It is clear that this requires a radical reappraisal of current provision in years 4 and 5; it is also clear that no single means will meet the needs of all schools and all pupils. Again the Secretaries of State look to the Secondary Science Curriculum Review to provide evidence, in the form of tested and evaluated curriculum materials and a summary report of the advantages and disadvantages of different alternatives, which will help LEAs and schools to reach their own decisions on these matters, and which will present appropriate challenges to pupils at each level of ability.

77. The future pattern of science education in years 4 and 5 will take time to emerge. But in the light of the consultations which have taken place and of the Government's policies for the school curriculum as a whole, the Secretaries of State wish to draw particular attention to certain aspects which seem to them of special importance.

(i) Elimination of unnecessary content

78. First, if science is to be taught to convey understanding, and confidence in the use of the knowledge gained, as well as the necessary and central skills, both practical and intellectual, then the factual and theoretical content of many existing courses will need to be sharply pruned. This task can, and should, be carried out without reducing the intellectual demands made on pupils or

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the rigour with which science is taught. If it is not carried out, then the objectives set out in this paper cannot be achieved. There are direct and immediate consequences for those charged with the development of syllabuses and grade criteria for GCSE examinations. The Secretaries of State are inviting the Secondary Examinations Council to address this issue as a matter of urgency.

(ii) Differentiation of approach

79. Second, it is necessary to design courses which will make appropriate demands on pupils of all levels of ability and which will, therefore, differ in depth and in teaching approach but without sacrificing breadth or balance. Provision for the ablest pupils needs to be of a quality, breadth and depth which will enable them to follow science courses of their own choice at A-level; and the capacity to do work of this quality must not be put at risk. But the demands made of able pupils should be extended so that they are challenged not by the task of accumulating ever greater stores of scientific knowledge but by the application of scientific principles to the real world, by the opportunity to investigate and to solve problems, and by the necessity of bringing scientific method to bear on assignments where the answer cannot be predicted in advance.

80. The science which is provided for lower-attaining pupils in years 4 and 5 should not be different in kind from that provided for average and more able pupils: it should, however, be differentiated in its treatment and should contain elements which will enable the pupils to achieve success which they can rightly feel to be worthwhile. It seems likely that the most successful approach may be through integrated courses or, possibly, modular courses; these may sometimes be linked closely with other subjects in interdisciplinary studies. The conclusions of the Lower Attaining Pupils programme supported by the DES will be relevant here.

(iii) Organisation of the curriculum

81. Third, some schools will wish to continue teaching the three separate science subjects in years 4 and 5, especially to average and more able pupils, for some time to come. But the aims of this paper imply more radical changes for pupils of all abilities than simply pruning the content of existing physics, chemistry and biology courses to provide more room for investigative, applied and problem-solving aspects and then continuing to teach those subjects in isolation from each other. Those schools which do continue to teach separate subjects will need to arrange much closer collaboration between the teachers of these subjects than is commonly found at present, to secure more orderly progression in the acquisition of knowledge and skills across the spectrum of science and to avoid unnecessary repetition or gaps. The reforms

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now needed require science departments to be united in philosophy and method.

82. Even with such collaboration, however, it will be difficult for schools to teach satisfactorily three separate subjects, leading to three separate examinations at 16+, within a total time allocation of 9 periods of science a week; and a total allocation of 12, or even more, periods a week, as is now found for some pupils, should not be regarded as acceptable because it would seriously unbalance the remainder of their programme. In the longer term the pressures on curriculum time, the practical constraints of timetabling and the interconnections of the separate sciences seem likely to put a premium on the teaching of science in the fourth and fifth years to all pupils through reformulated schemes of combined or integrated science. Experience of such approaches has demonstrated the need for careful preparation, including the substantial amount of in-service training which may be necessary for the teachers involved; and a sustained effort is still needed to convince employers, including some important scientific and technological firms, and higher education institutions of the merits of such courses. It is regrettable that the merits of some recently developed courses, for example in integrated science, are not more widely recognised: schools and LEAs should take the lead in informing their local employers about the nature of such courses.

83. Such reformulated schemes of combined or integrated science would give rise to an increase in the practice, which already exists in differing forms, of the award at 16+ of grades equivalent to those in two conventional subjects (double certification). This has implications for the national criteria. The Secretaries of State propose to pursue those implications with the Secondary Examinations Council.

84. The Secretaries of State hope that LEAs and schools, in considering their future policies for science education in the fourth and fifth years, will give detailed consideration, in the light of the evidence of accumulated experience, including that arising from the Secondary Science Curriculum Review, to the full range of options which are open to them, such as better coordinated teaching of the three separate subjects; grouping these subjects into courses in physical science and biological science; integrated science; and modular courses. Each has its strengths, and the choice in individual schools will depend on the capabilities and willingness of the teachers concerned; but change is needed, and in the view of the Secretaries of State the case for a move in the longer term towards combined or integrated courses leading to double certification is a powerful one.

(iv) Links with other subjects

85. The fourth aspect to which the Secretaries of State wish to

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draw special attention is the need for coordination between science teaching in years 4 and 5 and teaching in other practical subjects, especially in CDT, and in mathematics. Schools will need to create new arrangements for coordination to ensure that breadth and balance are achieved for all pupils, no matter what combination of courses they are following. The Technical and Vocational Education Initiative provides the occasion for exploring fruitful forms of that collaboration.

Science for Pupils with Special Educational Needs

86. The objectives and the approach outlined in this statement apply also to the science education offered to many pupils whose special educational needs make it desirable for them to attend special schools or designated units within ordinary schools. Many such pupils are not at present offered as much science, or science in as much depth and breadth, as is desirable. Pupils whose disabilities are physical or sensory need, and can benefit from, science appropriate to their age and ability, subject only to the limitations imposed by their disabilities: these limitations are sometimes severe, but can often be overcome by modifications to equipment and adaptations of teaching methods. Other pupils require different approaches because their special needs arise from difficulties in the learning process. If these difficulties are severe they need a curriculum aimed at preparing them to take part in and derive satisfaction from the society in which they are to live. Their work in science needs to be practical, and they may often be best served by curricular material and methods similar in some ways to those found suitable for primary schools. Pupils with less severe difficulties need a modified curriculum with different emphasis and pace. They should have the opportunity to carry out a range of relevant scientific experiments which can develop their observational, manipulative and linguistic skills.

Teacher Supply and Training

87. The implementation of these policies requires sufficient teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to teach science across the ability range in primary and secondary schools.

Supply of science specialists for secondary schools

88. The supply of biology teachers has generally been sufficient to meet the needs of the schools but there has been a long-standing deficiency of chemistry teachers and, more acutely, of physics teachers. As a result there is an imbalance between the different kinds of specialism within the science teacher force which needs to be corrected. A further consequence of past shortage is that many

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of those teachers who currently teach science may not be well qualified to do so.

89. The objectives set out above imply an increase in the average amount of science education provided per pupil. This arises especially from the proposals for years 4 and 5 of secondary education, where most pupils would spend more time on science even though a few would spend less. Because secondary pupil numbers will be falling sharply over the next few years, the constraints of teacher supply need not prevent such a shift, provided that there is a willingness to plan for it. The Advisory Committee on the Supply and Education of Teachers (ACSET) examined the implications of Science Education in Schools for the staffing of science teaching in secondary schools. The Committee noted the proposal that science should increase its share of the time-table, and took the view that some reduction in the size of science classes was desirable, especially in view of the need to offer more and better science teaching to the less able. Even after allowance is made for these factors, the fall in the number of secondary pupils over the rest of this decade is likely to lead to an appreciable fall in the actual total demand for science teaching. Moreover postgraduate training courses have in the last five years recruited well; the resulting output of new science teachers has a better balance between the specialisms. ACSET noted that in the years ahead careful management would be needed to secure a higher proportion of science specialists within a reducing secondary school teacher force.

90. In 1982 the Secretaries of State reduced total target intakes to training for secondary school teaching in view of the prospective fall in rolls, but the numbers in subjects in which there have been shortages - including physics - were maintained. Provided that courses continue to recruit well, the planned supply of science teachers should be adequate to fill vacancies arising in the schools in the mid to late 1980s. The Secretaries of State intend to keep the adequacy of supply under close review, in the light of the advice which they have received from ACSET on intakes to initial teacher training in 1986 and subsequent years, and the findings of the 1984 Surveys of Secondary School Staffing in England and Wales. They endorse ACSET's view on the need for systematic management, and recognise that an adjustment in favour of science within a reducing teacher force may require painful decisions in relation to teachers whose subject special isms are moving into surplus. But if the arrangements for school staffing give priority to the needs of the curriculum and, within that, to science, it should be possible to achieve the objectives both of increasing the quantity of science teaching per pupil and of raising its quality.

Initial teacher training

91. Newly trained teachers at present form only a very small proportion of the total teacher force, but that makes it all the more

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important that they should be fully up-to-date in their thinking and in their preparation for the needs of the schools. The Government has accordingly withdrawn the blanket exemption from initial teacher training previously applicable to mathematics and science graduates; now they, like other graduates intending to teach, must first take a course of professional training.

92. In April 1984 the Secretaries of State issued a circular on the approval of initial teacher training courses, which sets out certain criteria against which all courses will in future be assessed, in relation to the selection of students, the academic and professional content of courses, and good working relations with schools. They have established the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, to advise them on whether initial training courses conform to the criteria and should be approved as being suitable for the professional preparation of teachers. The criteria stress that primary teachers should not only be prepared in their initial training for teaching a broad curriculum as class teachers, but should also be equipped to make a special contribution in a particular subject or area of the curriculum. The Secretaries of State are therefore expecting initial training institutions to review the adequacy of their specialist staffing in science, so that all new primary teachers may be provided with a firm foundation in the subject, and some may be equipped to act as curriculum leaders in the way envisaged in Paragraph 20(c) of this statement.

93. The criteria also require that adequate attention should be paid in courses for both primary and secondary teaching to the methodology of teaching the chosen subject specialism, or curricular area, and of relating it not only to the school curriculum as a whole but also to the everyday life and work of the community. Further, they require that students should be prepared to teach the full range of pupils whom they are likely to encounter in an ordinary school. Thus, in the case of secondary training, the application of the criteria should help to ensure that science teachers are prepared to teach pupils of the full spread of ability and are encouraged to help their pupils to perceive the relevance of science teaching to their own experience.

94. The Government looks to parents, schools, and institutions of higher education to encourage young people well qualified in science to train as primary teachers with an emphasis on science. The Government looks too to training institutions to make every effort to recruit such students to both undergraduate and postgraduate courses and to ensure that they are offered training of appropriate depth and rigour. At the same time they recognise that progress in training curriculum leaders in science for the primary schools will depend not only on initial training but also in large measure on in-service training.

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In-service teacher training

95. In-service training has a major part to play, because the great majority of those who will be teaching in 1990 are already in the schools. In-service training of primary school teachers is discussed in paragraph 22 above. In-service support for secondary school teachers is no less important. It is in the nature of science, with the rapid development of knowledge and its applications, that teachers need opportunities to keep up to date. But in addition, the objectives set out in this paper make considerable demands on the skills and personal qualities of teachers, especially in the areas of curriculum organisation, course design and revision and the identification of pupil needs and potential. The effective implementation of those objectives will be dependent as much on teachers' ability to adopt a flexible and varied approach to their teaching methods as on a sound and up to date grasp of their subject. Where necessary, teachers should be equipped by suitable training to meet these demands. Heads of science departments have a pivotal role in managing the process of change, and special attention should be given, through training and support at LEA and school level, to enabling them to carry out that responsibility.

96. LEAs continue to bear the main responsibility for identifying, and responding to, the training needs of serving teachers. For its part the Government has introduced a limited scheme of grants to provide an extra stimulus to in-service training in certain priority areas: science teaching has been included in the scheme from the academic year 1984-85. Under this scheme courses are being provided in schools for heads of science departments in secondary schools and for science coordinators in primary schools.


97. Action in carrying forward the proposals set out in this statement falls not only to the Secretaries of State but also to their partners in the education service, and not least to the schools themselves. Within the resources available to all concerned, a sustained effort will be needed by:

(a) the schools, where heads, other teachers and governors all have an indispensable role in bringing about more effective science education;

(b) local education authorities, in developing policies for the curriculum in their primary, secondary and special schools which take account not only of the general principles for science education set out in paragraphs 7-14 but also of the more detailed policies outlined above for the primary and secondary phases and for continuity between those phases. Local education authorities will also need to consider the implications of the statement for their

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responsibilities of managing and deploying the teaching . force, and in particular for defining priorities for the in-service training of teachers;

(c) curriculum developers, working on both primary and secondary education; the current work of the Secondary Science Curriculum Review will be directly relevant to defining the way ahead for secondary science;

(d) teacher training institutions, the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education and others responsible for the training of teachers, in bringing about changes in initial teacher training and in providing the in-service training and support needed for the implementation of the policies set out in this statement; and

(e) examination boards and the Secondary Examinations Council, in developing GCSE syllabuses which will promote good practice in science education.

98. There is already much excellent work in the teaching of science in both primary and secondary schools in England and Wales. The task ahead is for all of the partners in the education service to build on that work so that primary schools can give all of their pupils a proper introduction to the ideas and activities of science, and all secondary pupils can be offered a broad and balanced science course up to the age of 16. These are ambitious goals. The Secretaries of State are confident that they can be reached.