Education secretary asks Ofqual to reconsider removing practical assessment from science qualifications

By Nuffield Foundation

We welcome Nicky Morgan’s request for Ofqual to reconsider its decision to remove practical assessment from science A levels and GCSEs.

Speaking at the Politeia thinktank in London on Tuesday, the education secretary said: “I am concerned that a decision to remove practical assessment from science qualifications is in danger of holding back the next generation of scientists.

“I understand that a constructive dialogue is now taking place and my hope is that Ofqual and the scientific community are able to work together to find a workable solution. One that preserves high-quality assessment, but at the same time ensures that what students learn in the classroom is what universities and employers agree will give budding scientists the best preparation to succeed in the future.”

Ofqual announced it would be removing practical assessments from science A levels last year and is currently consulting on similar changes at GCSE. This has met with strong opposition from many in the science community.

Together with the Wellcome Trust and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation we have recently written to Ofqual, recommending that the regulator wait for evidence from research currently underway on the assessment of practical science before proceeding with changes at GCSE.

The research is part of our three organisations’ joint programme of work exploring ways to better enable all schools and colleges to engage their students with high quality science practical work.

One project aims to identify better approaches to the assessment of practical skills in science GCSEs and A levels. Another is a long-term monitoring programme to capture changes in the quality and quantity of practical science in a representative sample of 1000 schools and colleges, including those in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and gaining annual feedback from at least 3000 members of staff.

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We improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in EducationWelfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We offer our grant-holders the freedom to frame questions and enable new thinking. Our research must stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny, but we understand that to be successful in effecting change, it also needs to be relevant to people’s experience.

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