New ASE report highlights concerns over practical science post lockdown

The Association for Science Education is today publishing the findings from two major online surveys into practical science in a post lockdown world: an online survey of science leaders and teachers (410 responses) and a second survey of science technicians (472 responses). With the new school year already underway many parts of the UK, this is a key issue for science teachers and technicians as schools and colleges strive to adapt to the changing circumstances in which we find ourselves and to the challenges of delivering high quality science education post lockdown.

This report provides teachers, policy-makers and others with an interest in science education with an indication of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the provision of high quality practical science work for students in UK secondary schools and colleges. Given the timings involved - the surveys were conducted in the final weeks of the summer term - it provides both a snapshot of how educators delivered practical science during lockdown and, with planning at the time well underway, a steer to the main concerns ahead of the full reopening of schools this Autumn.

Key findings:

  • Almost 60% of respondents (science leaders and teachers) were not satisfied with their school or college provision for practical work during lockdown.
  • Schools and colleges are anticipating a big reduction in the frequency of practical science taught from September to all age groups, and there are likely to be 20% of examination classes (GSCE and A level) experiencing no practical science at all.
  • Nearly 90% of respondents are concerned about the pressure to catch up on missed content during the lockdown period.
  • Nearly 90% of respondents were concerned about the lack of certainty around 2021 examinations (14-16 and post 16.

The findings of this report have been used to inform a further qualitative analysis into the effect of the Covid-19 outbreak on the delivery of quality practical science - viewed through the prism of the landmark Good Practical Science Report - the findings of which will be released in mid-September. As such, this report makes no commentary or recommendations. Rather, it should be seen as indicative of the challenges the science education community faces over the weeks and months ahead.

‘The Covid-19 crisis has touched on all aspects of school life and across all subject areas. As an intrinsically practical subject, science education has been particularly impacted by the recent school closures, with difficulties in carrying out practical work set to continue as students return. Whilst we fully appreciate that ensuring the health of students and staff remains a top priority when schools and colleges reopen fully in September, we believe that with careful planning for purposeful practical activities, following the up to date guidance from CLEAPSS, all students can experience the benefits to science learning that practical work brings.’

Hannah Russell, ASE Chief Executive