Emma Collins is a science teacher at a comprehensive school in London
Science is one of the most important subjects children can learn these days, specifically because everything we have relies on science. The UK is losing scientists at an alarming rate not just because they leave the country but because fewer and fewer students are continuing with science at higher levels.
Looking at the science curriculum I have had to teach, the new GCSE courses are nowhere near good enough to support students’ interest and imagination. In year 10, the science is dumbed down and does not challenge them scientifically. The exams challenge them in their understranding of ethics and english and therefore there is no real test for the scientific knowledge that they have acquired.
In year 11, although the biology part of the additional science courses does link to AS level, there is no consistancy up to AS level in the chemistry and physics. The continuity is atrocious and most science AS teachers have to assume that students know nothing when they start their AS courses. This is the same for all courses and, at the moment, it is up to teacahers to ensure that students have a grounding that will see them well at AS. If we were to teach simply by the course, the students will know nothing.
The whole point of the new GCSE that was brought in a few years ago was to improve continuity to AS level and to improve interest in science and this has not been done. Students feel let down by the exams after all of the hard work that they put in. They become disheartened with the subject and lose interest much more quickly especially in cases where AS and A2 level is touched upon but, due to the lack of time to complete the course, cannot be looked at in any depth. This really infuriates students, particularly the higher ability ones.
Something needs to change and the government needs to listen to the people that actually do know best - us science teachers. We know best of all how students work, what they find interesting and how to stimulate their interests.