An authentic voice
4 July 2011
I went this week to give evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology about practical science in the auspicious surroundings of the Thatcher Room in Portcullis House. We paused to muse on the legacy of that Education Secretary. ASE was invited to give evidence as we submitted a response to the Committee’s consultation on practical science on behalf of the Outdoor Science Working Group, although the questions were about practical science in general. It was clear from the questioning that the MPs on the committee had been very much influenced by the submissions from young people. These give authentic, while not necessarily representative views of practical work in schools. They were salutary, from the point of view of an organisation that has been active in practical science for over a hundred years. Children reported liking practical but not really understanding why they were doing it – and naturally, the members of the committee wanted to know our response to the comments.
ASE has submitted numerous responses to consultations in the past months. The response to the practical enquiry contained some useful survey data. On giving evidence, I pointed out that a survey of ASE members, who have enhanced access to safety publications, may skew the responses such that our members are more likely to have a healthy attitude to risk management and planning for safety. It was important to do this, as the bodies to which we make submissions can seize on numerical data and treat it with too much respect. Likewise the quotes and direct responses from individual children and teachers can be taken as more representative than they actually are.
We can make appropriate use of this, of course. Not to over-egg a case, of course, but to highlight a situation which we are pretty sure to be prevalent via other means. This website is doing very well at providing survey data, from members and non-members, and the comments that come back are very welcome. A membership organisation ought to be able to express the opinions of its members and there is great value in the authentic voice. We just need to be sure that the views are as authentic as they seem.
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