Cuts to school funding will make a bad situation worse, warns teaching union

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Teachers have hit back at MPs’ claims that students are receiving a substandard practical science education.

The Commons Science and Technology Select Committee published a report on practical experiments in school science lessons and science field trips.

Chair Andrew Miller MP said: “We heard evidence that the pressures of managing a busy curriculum, challenges in finding time for specialist continuing professional development, or time to get out of the classroom, are all factors contributing to a decline in the quality of practical science.

“This is worrying. If the UK is to be confident of producing the next generation of scientists, then schools – encouraged by the government – must overcome the perceived and real barriers to providing high quality practicals, fieldwork and fieldtrips.”

But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) said the government had to take some responsibility for the situation.

Education policy adviser Alison Ryan said: “ATL is pleased that the Select Committee recognises that an already overloaded curriculum and a lack of proper career structure for technical support staff are undermining the provision of practical science education.

“ATL has long argued that teachers need access to high-quality continuing professional development, with time to develop their subject expertise and classroom confidence throughout their careers.

“It’s a shame that the Select Committee has failed to recognise the impact an excessive accountability system has on the time that schools have to focus on vital activities such as science experiments, and on creating a risk-averse culture in schools which can stifle innovation. Science is much more exciting when practical activities are included.

“Cuts to school funding, which has already affected the numbers of science technicians and other support staff in schools, will make a bad situation even worse.”


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