← News Mar 23rd 2015

Is Science Squeezed Out of Primary School?

According to a joint study conducted by the CBI and Brunel University, over 50% of teachers in primary school believe that science is being squeezed out of the program. One third of the participants revealed a discouraging fact: their schools did not meet the recommended two hours per week.

Primary school

Out of 260 primary school teachers that took part in the survey, only 14.5% say that science is currently a greater priority, 32.5% say the priority has not changed over the past 5 years, while 53% believe that teaching science has become less of a priority. As a result of the changes, a third of the participants lack the confidence to teach science in the current educational system. 62% agree that their confidence would be greater if they had better chances for professional development.

The government, supporter of the new curriculum in primary schools, does not accept the findings of the study as relevant.

Are we making a greater damage than anticipated?

The Wellcome Trust expressed a clear concern on the same issue: the findings of its study, issued in September 2014, showed that the schools with access to high levels of science expertise are very few. The status of primary science and the accountability systems in place for it were put under suspicion. The recent report by CBI only confirms the known fact: although science is a core subject in the national curriculum, it’s no longer a priority in primary schools.

“Science education in primary schools is being squeezed out, with over half of teachers believing it has become less of a priority with too many schools struggling to teach the recommended two hours every week,” John Cridland, Director-General of CBI said.

The organization argued that the educational system experienced a turnaround point in 2009, when the government canceled the key stage 2 exams in science. If the current trend persists, the lack of capacity and teaching in primary schools will lead to greater problems at a future point of these students’ education.

Both students and teachers welcomed the government’s decision to abolish science tests in Year 6. This reform was supposed to revolutionize the classroom and promote innovation. Nevertheless, the trend took a downturn: instead of promoting science, primary schools are focusing on developing literacy and numeracy skills in students.

Mr Cridland expressed his concern: “How can we expect to inspire future generations of scientists and engineers if we don’t deliver high-quality and inspiring science lessons at primary school age? If we are not careful, too many children will have lost interest in science before they hit their teens.”

According to Mr Cridland evaluation, the current educational system is not successful in inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Will primary science be revived?

According to Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, “primary schools are constrained by narrow accountability targets and the need for their teachers to be masters of all trades, teaching science with the same confidence they teach English, maths, history and sports.”

Mr Hobby suggests an effective solution: “we should, as the report recommends, offer maximum support to primary schools and make sure we judge them fairly on a broad and balanced curriculum.”

The facts are clear: the UK educational system needs a change. Nevertheless, the Department for Education holds the cards at the moment, and this report was evaluated as “nonsense” by its representatives.

The government stands strong behind the claim that the UK primary science curriculum is one of the best in the world. The spokesperson for the Department of Education said “a record number of pupils are now taking science at GCSE and we are seeing more young people taking the crucial Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at A-level.”

It doesn’t seem that the report’s findings are a wake-up call for the government after all.

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