To think science teaching in the UK is a joke?(73 Posts)
Background to this: I have a 13-year old DD who is academically, shall I say, no more than OK. There are no real issues in her report, she's a sociable, sensible and well-liked girl. Middle set for absolutely everything. In no danger of coming top of the school and taking a first from Oxbridge as far as I can make out at this stage. Best subjects so far, Geography and English. Also quite interested in science, but not a natural mathematician.
So I was thinking about my own (rubbish) career non-choices and dead ends, as a relatively able but general arts-oriented student (think Latin, English, couldn't do MFL effectively as have hearing impairment). And realising that actually, I was always really interested in science myself. But despite doing my level best and getting science O-levels (somehow, despite a dodgy syllabus and even more dodgy teaching) I could never take it further because, well, you need to know your stuff and if the syllabus is ropey you're gonna struggle later on. And now I look at the range of careers and see that if you drop science too early you are really, really missing out.
I'm afraid that my daughter, like me, is going to get channelled into a restricted choice of careers because she's not quite 'technical' enough to go the triple science route at GCSE (they only offer triple science to the top of the top set), which will put her on the back foot WRT further study of scientific subjects. I'm not talking about forcing her to try and become an engineer or an astrophysicist if she's not suited to it. But we're increasingly living in a world where scientific knowledge is power - think health choices, medical treatment, knowing where your electricity comes from...and I think the school syllabus is beyond inadequate when it comes to teaching kids this sort of stuff. And there are gender issues here as well.
If you couldn't do triple science at gcse there's no way you'd cope at a level though surely?
I did double science. Got a degree in science. Then a career in science teaching.
Not sure why not doing triple science is such a big issue for you.
I also note here that the issue is more about you than your daughter. Projecting.
If she was more able in her science, she would be in top set. Not everyone can be good at everything.
What is it you wish the school were teaching - she can still do double science presumably?
Also you can't drop science early, you have to do it to GCSE level. Not like when I was at school when you could drop it before O level. In fact, I didn't even do maths, just some equivalency certificate called PSA arithmetic I think. And that was a grammar school!
If the fault lies with UK science teaching how is it that anyone in the UK manages to pursue a career in science?
My sister did double science gcse, did biology a level (amongst others arts subjects) and did a science degree
I did separate sciences and failed them miserably.
For physics and chemistry you need to be extremely mathematical at a level.
You've got to be realistic here - if you're in middle sets for GCSE you're probably not going to cope with science A-levels.
A level 3 applied science BTEC might be worth a look.
I did Double Science, science at A Level and got a science degree and then ended up as a science teacher.
You don't have to do triple sciences to do A Level. Though I'd say you need comfortable Bs at GSCE to really cope with them.
The problem is surely with entry routes into science-related careers, not with science teaching, then?
If you don't get an A in GCSE physics, chemistry and maths then A levels in these subjects are beyond you. I speak from experience, I did well in my science GCSE but could not keep up with A , level chemistry.
Biology was a different matter. Perfectly doable alongside arty subjects.
There is a gender problem but I'm not sure why. Not sure how much it's got to do with how the subjects are taught. More that they are still seen as male roles and a lack of interest from the girls. Schools could be doing more to change that perhaps.
I.don't know enough about the curriculums to comment but if the content was lacking surely the universities and employers would be better placed to say what is needed.
Have you seen how little teaching pays compared to other careers in science? It isn't the most attractive career choice for science graduates.
I was taught chemistry by a teacher with a biology degree. She was useless (she may have been a wonderful biologist, but she had no place teaching 6th form chemistry - I knew more chemistry than she did).
But of course chemistry graduates tend to become bankers, accountants, research scientists, patent attorneys, etc. and not teachers.
Your post shows a fundamental misunderstanding of double award and triple science. Perhaps you should go back and have an actual conversation with the teachers before slagging their teaching off!
To think science teaching in the UK is a joke? / to go the triple science route at GCSE
UK? GSCEs? You'll be aware that the four countries that make up the 'UK' have separate education systems - for all sorts of historical / legal reasons - and what you mean here is ENGLAND.
Well done though, on the double annoyance of hacking off two separate groups of people.
I don't think the double award is particularly limiting unless you are so mathematical/scientific that you might be an astro-physicist. I do think there's an issue with the quality of science teaching in the UK though and think there is a correlation between the scienciness of parents who are able to support either themselves or by employing tutors and the GCSE results.
Science teaching will not attract the best graduates until their pay is benchmarked with other science based professions. There is a shortage of science graduates and it is a vicious circle.
At my daughters comp. triple science was taught in the same time as double science because the girls doing triple were more able and therefore were capable of independent study. At parents evening we got one five minute slot with one science teacher who talked us through progress in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Each science was worthy of 90 seconds feedback. It wasn't great and it wasn't acceptable. DT, Art, IT, RS, all got the full five minutes. The school couldn't explain to me what was acceptable about it either. Didn't really reassure me that they valued science compared to other subjects.
Interestingly the alumni of that school are all actresses, models, choreographers, etc. Not one scientist, politician or business person amongst them. One prominent woman at the BBC who personally I don't think is a very good role model for women.
You are basically saying that it is the fault of teachers that your dd isn't triple science material? What % of the year does triple science? At our school, sets 1 and 2 out of 6 are offered triple science (a third). A third of the year being pushed to do the most challenging option sounds fine to me.
I think that there are problems with Science teaching (especially at primary) but my opinion is based on the schools that my kids (age 14 and under) attend/have attended so I don't know if they are national.
Did double award, went on the Biology, Chem, English and Maths A level (after initially choosing English, Art and French - suddenly realised at the age of 17/18 I couldn't think of anything to do with the latter three A levels afterwards). University, Medical degree, now Consultant Anaesthetist. So double award no real barrier to career in science-related fields! They were most interested in my English A level at interview for med school. Seemed very keen for someone who appreciated communication rather than just being scientifically minded.
Would Geog, Eng and Biology be good A level choices for her? Geog and Eng will be very essay based, so biology could be a good "refuge" from that? I found maths and chemistry quite tricky at A level, and had a private tutor to help me with maths (local teacher from another school). Would this be an option for her science subjects to improve confidence? Would be a shame not to at least try a science A level if she is interested in it.
Lots of Science-y careers could be opened with the biology A level I would have thought, especially with some focused work experience later on.
What are her goals at the moment? Does she have any career ambitions? I appreciate most 13 year olds don't!
If she gets a's on the double award there's no reason she shouldn't do all three science a levels (assuming she gets an a/a* in maths if she wants to do physics or chemistry).
Does your daughter actually want to study science further because what's coming through most clearly in your post is your hang up from your school days.
But we're increasingly living in a world where scientific knowledge is power - think health choices, medical treatment, knowing where your electricity comes from...and I think the school syllabus is beyond inadequate when it comes to teaching kids this sort of stuff.
Those things are on the AQA double award syllabus.
Surely with the world literally at your finger tips ie the internet why can you not increase your daughter's knowledge at home?
I have 2 sons who have always been interested in science so we gave them a chemistry set and worked through that. We also watched "How it's made" and Mythbusters on TV.
We have moved onto Veritasium on YouTube and the likes to push their knowledge ie how does a tree get bigger and grow when the soil underneath stays the same?
They are interested and we just point them in the right direction. Ds2 attended Leeds University STEM week through school, he was 8 at the time.
I have learnt loads myself, my degree was in English so this wasn't something I was keen on at school but I have enjoyed it and with so many enthusiastic people on YouTube talking about science and BBC bitesize etc it is much easier than going to the library and hoping there is a book that covers what you want to know. Also past GCSE papers are on-line too to show the depth of knowledge they need.
Anyone with capabilities in science can earn more in other careers than teaching (or will boffin it away doing research). It's time we acknowledged the fact that some subjects are more marketable than others and if we want good maths and science teachers, we will have to pay more. Overall it would benefit the country if we have more people with better science education - we have a chronic shortage of doctors, nurses, engineers, actuaries etc.
My DC's school - an otherwise excellent comprehensive - only does double award Science at GCSE.
This frustrates me BUT their A-level science results are genuinely excellent, including Oxbridge entrance. I even contacted my old Oxbridge college about it - I was a scientist until I completed my PhD - who assured me that many of their science undergraduates had only double award science and it was fine.
There's this amazing learning resource called the internet. Scientists invented it. You can learn lots of science to a pretty high level from it. There are also these lumps of paper bundled together called books. You can learn lots of science from those.
I learnt all my chemistry ( quite a lot in fact) from studying geography. A heck of a lot of physical geography is chemistry.
Join the discussion
Please login first.