Cover story - May 13 2013 issue
A report produced for the Department for Education on the Level Six National Curriculum Tests calls into question the usefulness of the reading test and makes recommendations on support and guidance for schools.
The report, by the Centre for Education and Inclusion Research and Sheffield Hallam University, says primary schools need better guidance and support for the level six curriculum. The report calls for greater guidance on pupil selection and support, especially in reading, and for more practice materials.
Researchers undertook case studies in a representative sample of 20 primary schools and looked at how the L6 tests were viewed by secondary schools. Schools, the report says, need to be supported to focus on teaching and learning alongside test preparation. There was a link between approach to the test and outcomes. Schools taking a strong outcome (the test process) focussed approach were less likely to have successful results compared with those that took a combined learning and outcome approach.
The research found scepticism on the part of primary schools about whether secondary schools will judge the tests as an accurate reflection of levels, and secondary schools themselves confirmed this. The report calls for more engagement between sectors in curriculum, assessment and moderation to ensure the test results are accepted and made use of.
In the light of the fact that only two per cent of pupils taking the reading test ‘passed’ compared with 40 per cent in maths, the report calls for a review as to whether the reading test in its current form is the most appropriate and cost effective way to identify higher performing pupils.
Investigation of Key Stage 2 Level 6 Tests: www.gov.uk/government/publications/investigation-of-key-stage-2-level-6-tests
Cover story - May 6 2013 issue
State primary and secondary schools do not have sufficient equipment to undertake practical science according to reports commissioned by science education partnership SCORE. Its partners are the Association for Science Education, Society of Biology, Royal Society of Chemistry, Institute of Physics and the Royal Society.
The reports, based on in-depth surveys at 394 primary and 448 secondary schools and sixth form colleges, also found that there is a large variation in funding and facilities for practical science between schools in the same sector.
Many primary schools, the report says, lack sufficient appropriate resources or facilities to teach practical science effectively, and low levels of funding are accepted as the norm. Spending per pupil on practical science in the schools surveyed varies between four pence and £19.08 per year. Many primary schools lack sufficient quantities of equipment and consumables. Items that are in particularly short supply in schools include data loggers and working batteries. Teachers reported finding it difficult to obtain supplies of equipment such as magnifiers, stopwatches and magnets, that are both fit-for-purpose and sufficiently robust.
Science in primary schools is most often taught in ordinary classrooms Around a quarter of teachers have easy and regular access to all the items on a list of equipment and facilities recommended by SCORE. These include a resources area, safety equipment and dark space. A fifth of teachers said they had no access to any of the items. Creative items such as polymers, smart materials, heat sensitive toys, UV beads, puppets and various science games, which, the report says, can help with engaging primary school children with science, are also in short supply.
Lack of storage space for equipment and consumables is a problem for nearly a fifth of schools and can mean that items are not bought even when money is available.
Access to outside space was less challenging than other areas of resourcing, but the average primary school is still only able to access two-thirds of the indicative outside learning experiences (including ponds, varied habitats and environments with varied rock and soil types), and no schools have easy access to all of them.
Site visits undertaken for the survey found a culture of tolerance and coping with the levels of resources available. Over a third of staff in primary schools reported supplementing budgets from their own pockets.
Many state-funded secondary schools and sixth form colleges, SCORE found, also lack sufficient equipment for practical work, as basic equipment is missing or not working. Nearly half of secondary school teachers say they do not have enough funding for practical science. Maintained secondary schools spend, on average, £10.12 per student per year on science, while independent schools spend £26.99.
Inadequate facilities are limiting the practical work that can take place in many schools and sixth form colleges. Over a quarter of respondents across all secondary schools and sixth form colleges are dissatisfied with their laboratory facilities.
Inadequate technician support is also limiting practical work, with just over a quarter of respondents within state-funded schools reporting that they need at least one additional technician. Good technician support, the report says, is being lost because of poor working conditions.
Approximately half of schools reported difficulty accessing each of the outside learning environments recommended for pre-16 provision, with over 60 per cent of respondents reporting they lack access to a pond, while 80 per cent have no easy access to space for demonstrating properties of rocks or to measure air quality.
The survey also identified problems with the provision of appropriate learning facilities at post-16 level, with no schools reporting that they have access to more than half the learning environments necessary.
The reports, Resourcing Practical Science, can be downloaded from www.score-education.org