An entitlement to science for all

We accept the double award science at GCSE, and its equivalent triple science, as the statutory right of almost all pupils in England and Wales, but it was not always so. Initiatives came mostly from science teachers themselves, through their professional association. The Association for Science Education (ASE) began life as the Association of Public School Science Masters in 1911. It was quickly joined by the women's association and they both took in teachers from the state schools to become the 'Association of Women Science Teachers' and the 'Science Masters' Association'. The ASE was formed in the 1960s when the men's and women's associations joined. The School Science Review, which began in 1919, was a joint publication almost from the start. Several policy statements for school science (1916, 1936, 1943, 1957 and 1961) were jointly published. The policy on general science (1936) was the first to campaign for broad balanced science. Originally Nuffield Science was to be integrated, but we had to wait for the Schools Council Integrated Science Project before broad balanced science for O-level pupils was available. Nuffield Combined Science (for ages 11-13) and Nuffield Secondary Science (for the CSE pupils who were now legally required to remain at school until aged 16) provided a broad approach for the rest.

The development of the National Curriculum (1987) was built on the results of the Assessment of Performance Unit (APU) project. The APU conducted tests nationally during the early 1980s, but only with a sample of pupils in a sample of schools, allowing them to look at how standards vary with type of school and location, and over time. This prevented the identification of individual schools or teachers, which might have upset the cooperation that existed between them. No teaching for tests needed here!

Brenda and Friends (West 1984; reviewed in Ross 1998) is a very exciting document, which though pre-dating the National Curriculum unfortunately had little impact on it: it sketched out a minimum entitlement in science for every child in the form of a series of stories. Each curriculum topic had a different child, 16 in all. See Box 24.2 for an extract from Abdul as he looks back on his school science experience of particles and the nature of science.

Box 24.2 Extract from Brenda and Friends (West 1984)

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