September 23, 2008

Call for School Science Overhaul

NORTH East education experts are calling for a new approach to how science is taught in primary schools.

Durham University researchers say national testing distorts the teaching and reduces opportunities to harness children's natural curiosity.

The Durham experts have written one of two independent reports published today by the Wellcome Trust.

Both reports highlight widespread concern about the negative impact of national testing on young people's enjoyment and understanding of science.

The Durham report, written by Prof Peter Tymms and colleagues at the university's centre for evaluation and monitoring, says new approaches to primary school science must be developed.

Prof Tymms said: "We suspect the current national approach to science in primary schools is not impacting on children's scientific thought and curiosity as much as is possible.

"Despite the pass rates in public examinations later in secondary school, research suggests few students acquire a proper understanding of the science curriculum.

"The purpose of science in primary school should be to foster a sense of curiosity and positive attitudes in the young child. It should also guide the child in solving problems to do with the physical, natural and human worlds.

"There is now a strong argument for reconsidering the approach to science in English primary schools and for doing this in a systematic, evidence-based way."

Clare Matterson, director of medicine, society and history at the Wellcome Trust, said: "These reports both examine more than half a century of evidence on the teaching and learning of science in primary schools and both reach the same conclusion - science needs to be at the heart of primary education, but it is being let down by the current national accountability system."

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