Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Writing letters between Glenys and Nicky

My tongue is firmly in my cheek here, just in case anyone wondered. This is e reply Glenys should send to Nicky.

Dear Nicky,

Thank you for your letter. I understand totally your shared concern with that of the science establishment. I can quite understand why you are writing to me about this after your discussions with Prof Russel Group and Lord Engineering Inc. It is a concern that science teachers and myself share, but we also recognise the realities of the situation.

Unfortunately in the current climate science practical assessment is untenable and for the reasons why you need to look at your own office.

I am sure you have seen the data showing that practical assessment does not properly differentiate the achievement of students in the same way that an exam does. This is partly because practical assessment is not unpredictable, even with new tasks being set every year this goal has not been achievable. And it is also because the pressure on schools to compete for grades and league table positions is out of control. This is not the doing of ofqual, but the government. Allow teachers the freedom to be honest in their preparation and assessment of students and practical assessment within science will become a possibility again. To do this you must reconsider the league tables and science's position within them. The new progress8 measurement increases the importance of science considerably so cheating and gaming can only increase.

I also refer you to the work of SCORE on the resourcing of practical in schools. The 10% budget cut that schools are faced with will impact practical science many more times than the practical assessment. Again there is nothing that ofqual can do about that. I suggest that the government look at the ways in which they can encourage schools to properly resource science departments and ensure that school science departments have good technical support to back it up. Not enough schools do and this has a huge impact on practical work.

Lastly, I refer you to the pressures on schools due to ofsted. Are practical science lessons the most efficient way to obtain a high value added and GCSE A-C percentages? The continual professional development of science teachers and their line managers needs to be a priority. Empowering them to teach effective practical science lessons by ensuring that schools are obliged to look to external, research based training will mean better outcomes for students. Monitoring the work of ofsted to make sure they realise the place practical work has in science education and making sure this information filters through to Head Teachers looking to cut back on science laboratory space and capitation. How many science teachers are being discouraged through lack of facilities and head teachers who perceive practical lessons as chaotic and requiring improvement? Government should be supporting teachers to improve their practical science practice, not discouraging it.

Working with science teachers, schools and ofsted will outstrip the stick that is practical assessment within qualifications in ensuring the place of practical work in England's schools. Teachers really want to deliver good practical experiences for their students, creating a climate for that lies in your hands as much as mine.

You deliver this Mrs Morgan and I will deliver on practical assessment.



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