After months of planning, writing, discussion and evidence gathering, at the end of June we launched The Royal Society’s Vision for science and mathematics education report.
It was wonderful to be able to share our recommendations, and to see first-hand how positively they have been received by those in the education, and the science, mathematics and engineering, communities.
Throughout the life of the Vision project we have consulted diverse groups of people to inform our Vision. The Vision belongs to the education, scientific and mathematical communities. Our ambition is that these groups will now take a leading role in making it a reality.
The panel debate
Following a warm welcome to guests from Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, and a speech by the Vision committee chair Sir Martin Taylor FRS outlining our aims, there was a lively panel debate. I was pleased to represent the Royal Society, even if I was somewhat weary following an early morning slot on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to take the Vision to the nation!
I was joined on the panel by Mike Warriner, UK Engineering Director of Google, Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and two former Education Secretaries, each of whom has had a huge impact on the curriculum and quality of teaching in our schools: Lord Kenneth Baker and the Right Hon. Charles Clarke, who is also a Vision committee member.
Mary Bousted talked about her concerns about the demotion of practical assessment of science, and the lessening involvement of higher education in teacher training.
Charles Clarke looked back to his time in charge of education in England and said the Government in which he served should have brought in the baccalaureate-style curriculum devised by Mike Tomlinson. He also stressed how important it was for politicians to make sure the curriculum was stable.
Kenneth Baker wasn’t sure a baccalaureate-style curriculum would work in England, and said the answer was to provide vocational education for younger students.
Mike Warriner provided a stark warning about how he had to look abroad to employ people with the right technical skills.
Taxing questions from young people
Probably the most taxing questions came from the young people in the audience, who attend Simon Langton School and La Sainte Union Catholic School among others. One student even called for a return to exams similar to the old O-levels, which they thought had been more rigorous than the testing they face. Another wanted to know how more girls could be encouraged to study science.
The panel had different solutions as to how science should be better taught, with Kenneth Baker making a passionate plea for more practical work, for all schools to have several 3D printers and to teach coding. Mary Bousted ended the debate with a rousing call to arms to end the ‘high stakes’ testing and accountability systems for schools.
It was obvious that there is strong level of support for our proposals and it was very exciting to see how willing many of those at the launch were to now work with the Royal Society to make this Vision a reality. You can read the report on the website.
As the chair of the Royal Society’s education committee, I look forward to starting work to bring our Vision to reality over the coming years.