What support can I find to support me to support practical work?
Read on for information and advice in a guest post from SCORE Assistant Manager Jessica Douthwaite.
Despite much recent debate on the place of practical science in school curricula – one important point remains – practical work is integral to the teaching and learning of science at school.
The Council for Science and Technology recently emphasised this in a letter to Michael Gove:
“Practical laboratory work is the essence of science and should be at the heart of science learning.”
understands that teachers and technicians are as sure of the value of practical work as we are, but research conducted in 2012 and launched in May 2013, has shown us that though teachers and technicians would like to provide engaging and equitable practical science lessons for their students, many school staff are struggling to ensure that their classrooms and labs are resourced with the right equipment to do so.
This is not for lack of trying – anonymous comments highlighted problems in keeping up to date with variable equipment lists, the inability to provide sufficient quantities of equipment for deeper investigative activity amongst smaller groups of students, a lack of confidence in using some equipment in lessons, difficulties planning for long-term high cost purchases, and science taking a ‘back seat’ amongst senior leadership.
So what support is there on offer to support your practical work?! How can you embed long-term planning into resource-buying? And how can you better inform your senior leadership team and governors about your science department spending?
Through the Resourcing Practical Science research project, SCORE designed, tested and improved a set of primary and secondary school benchmarks
working with (and building on previously published resources from) CLEAPPS, the Association for Science Education, the Gatsby Foundation and the Primary Science Teaching Trust.
We directly responded to comments like “It would be really helpful to have a guide outlining resources for practical science” and “a list of suggested essential equipment [would help] so that we could check we had got all we need”.
The SCORE benchmarks do just this by listing adequate supplies, including quantities, in several categories depending on their use in primary or secondary school. The categories are: equipment and consumables; access to outside space; laboratory facilities; and technician staffing. These lists are a starting point for working towards an optimum level of appropriate resourcing.
We want teachers and technicians to use these in ensuring that their classrooms are stocked and prepared for practical lessons. We think that they provide an excellent basis to leverage science with senior leadership teams and budget holders. Finally we feel that once your school is appropriately resourced, you can provide the practical science experience that could really move your students’ learning and engagement forward!
Try out the benchmarks yourself by visiting SCORE benchmarks.
(For more information on the Resourcing Practical Science in schools research report visit the SCORE policy