Roz Fresson teaches A-level Biology at a sixth form college.
Point1: We have steadily seen a decline, over the past 10 years or so (since Curriculum 2000) in the ability of our students to work independently. (This is a generalisation as there are always excellent students.) I have often wondered if this is due to the pressure on schools to spoon feed their pupils with endless easy worksheets and ‘fun’ activities meant to stimulate them to think, but sadly not to work - by themsleves, concentrating and focusing on a tricky topic.
We have a Taster Day in July for the just finished kids to come and try out their chosen subjects to see if they will really like them after all. They come from schools all over our region and vary tremendously in terms of their science experience - from schools that only offer the Applied Science GCSE (which it NOT suitable preparation for A level Science courses!) to those with triple sciences and Core and Additional. They were very happy playing with enzymes and classification but the crunch always seemed to come when they had to do calculations or apply themselves to a problem - just as previous writers have noted.
We also teach Environmental Studies (still a science!!) and I must say that many of the students who came along to experience this really faultered with the maths and in fact, more importantly, did not seem to want to apply themselves to the task. Sadly they still will try to do the subject and struggle from start to finish.
Point 2: class size. I know many teachers feel that they can deliver stimulating and demanding lessons to 30 students where all will gain from the lesson. I am not one of those, sadly, and find at A-level, with 22 in a class, that the individual student is often lost in group activities. The best thing that government and the education depatment could do to spark our children into science would be to have classes of max 18 at GCSE with loads of opportunity to experiment, problem solve and explore with a teacher that is fresher and motivated to encourage them. Make each pupil feel they are an individual!