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Researching the school curriculum - Can we get the balance of science right?

17 October 2017

Researching the school curriculum - Can we get the balance of science right?

ASE welcomes HMCI Amanda Spielman’s comments last week on research into the school curriculum. We look forward to future inspections having greater focus on the taught curriculum, and especially the balance of science against other subjects.

In response to the comments, we've identified the following three key areas. 

1. Primary science

We share Spielman’s concerns that there is undue emphasis on preparation for the key stage 2 tests. Science is a core subject, alongside English and mathematics, and should have the curriculum time to reflect that. ASE supports the recommendation in Wellcome ‘s Review of Ofsted inspection reports that there should be two hours per week of curriculum time for science in primary schools. Ofsted should consider the provision of science education in all school inspections. Wellcome’s review showed fewer than half of all primary school inspection reports mentioned science.

2. Science GCSE

We agree that there are issues within the science curriculum; a ‘choice’ of two pathways (combined science or triple science) leads to unnecessary stratification and sustains inequality of opportunity (Archer et al, 2017) as well as potentially reducing the breadth of the curriculum for those students who opt for triple science. The trend to reduce Key Stage 3 to a two-year programme is a concern. It reduces curriculum breadth too early, and necessitates making curriculum choices when students are not ready.

3. Alternative courses 

Current performance measures do not support the development of an appropriate curriculum for low-attaining pupils. There are no clear pathways providing a balanced curriculum for these pupils that provide a suitable progression route from Entry level to Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications. In science, schools can be influenced by accountability measures rather than what is best for students.

Update from the ASE Education Group, Saturday 14th October 2017