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The little things that you say and do……

26 February 2013

There seems to be fashion at work with the things I get asked to do.  This time last year I was on the receiving end of numerous requests to write – articles, comments, blogs and so on.  This year, it’s speaking requests.  I usually agree to the writing ones – with a sensible deadline, the request can be met at any time that becomes available.  I’m writing this, for example, on a plane.  The speaking requests are more problematic – they involve the writing and preparation, of course (I can’t do off-the-cuff) but then you also have to be present somewhere.  No one has yet asked me to be beamed in by video link – that’s reserved for heads of state and legendary figures, I guess.  So the decision is more difficult.  A request that I nearly turned down recently was from an organisation with very different views of science education to my own.  In talking it through, I realized that it was possibly more important to engage with these unlikely colleagues than those who would agree with me.  I had a request earlier this year to go and speak in India.  Obviously ASE can’t support a trip overseas for me at the present time, so any invitations that involve distant travel that are not supported have to be refused, but this one was at the request of (and funded by)the British Council, and gave me a chance to interact with science educators who already have much respect for ASE and for whom further professional engagement with us would be beneficial to all concerned.  Personally, I brought back some stories about what really happens when you do the much-quoted international comparisons.  Try arguing about the benefits of a well-designed school science lab at a school where there is no teacher – and no building - but where the children get up and go to school, every day.  Or consider a school district with 55,000 schools – or a project to upskill 500 million Indians. Despite this, the debate was sophisticated and many of the concerns common – we all talked about the overcrowded curriculum and the challenge of teaching how science develops and changes, and avoiding the dull list of facts.

There are a few more dates on podia coming up.  March is a good month for science (so glad that remains the case long after my involvement in National Science and Engineering Week) so I’m not just speaking about the draft curricula – although it is handy that they have finally emerged for that one – but also about teaching about risk and what to do about science if you’re an academy or free school (spoiler alert – go for excellence!)  

There’s a version of the Buddy Holly hit quoted above, sung a capella by Steeleye Span, which contains a little section where they imitate a stuck record – I hope that I vary the message somewhat in the little things that I say….Rave on.

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