Yesterday’s publication of the latest secondary school League Tables raised eyebrows. Schools no longer have the option to cherry-pick subjects for assessment to boost their ranking – they will now have to stand or fall based on the same selection of GCSE subjects.
The discussion I’ve seen on this subject is thoroughly disheartening. Head teachers are throwing their toys out of the pram because they can’t submit “science” courses assessed without exam boards or any external moderation. Disturbingly, I agree with Michael Gove on this one – you need to make sure the playing field is level if league tables are to work. Any student with a basic understanding of the scientific method will understand that. You could almost cut the irony with a knife.
The apology for these unmoderated courses is that “we want to inspire kids about science”, as a pundit stated on the BBC. You can fill in the rest of that sentence easily, and all it does is suggest a much deeper flaw. While science education has improved, the implication remains that “proper science is boring”. One afternoon watching a scientist talking to some disinterested students will quickly disabuse you of that notion. Having been the scientist in this scenario several times, I can tell you that you can light a fire in a very soggy mind if you do it right.
Maybe therein lies the problem. Science can be cool and mysterious: science GCSE struggles to be relevant. How do you make a science subject interesting AND examinable? That’s a whole other subject, and it definitely needs to be externally examined.