Yesterday (Thursday 2 February 2023), Ofsted published its report on the quality of science education in England. Entitled ‘Finding the optimum: the science subject report’, it looked at science teaching in primary and secondary schools across England, bringing in evidence from reception through to sixth forms.

The findings indicate a number of strengths in England’s school science education and highlight examples of good practice across areas such as the curriculum, assessment and wider school systems. This is encouraging, particularly after the disruption pupils and teachers experienced throughout 2020.

Worryingly, however, there is a large variation in the quantity and quality of practical science work taking place in schools. This hands-on learning is, as the report states, a vital part of science education. The British Science Association’s (BSA) CREST Awards scheme, for example, is an evidence-based programme that enables students to apply their knowledge to a problem and experience being a scientist. Such practical activities develop skills and embed knowledge in a way that brings together scientific concepts and a topic that’s relevant to their lives.

Last academic year, over 55,000 students aged 5-to-19 across the UK received CREST Awards.

Find out more about CREST

Hannah Russell, Chief Executive of the British Science Association says:

“We welcome this report from Ofsted, which draws on findings from the schools they’ve inspected and considers the challenges currently facing science education. At the BSA, we’re working towards a science sector that is more connected to society and many people’s perception of science is influenced, if not formed, by their formative experiences in education.

"All young people should have the opportunity to leave school with a secure foundation in science and feel that science could be ‘for them’ , so they can make informed decisions about different aspects of their life such as health and technology, and of course benefit from the wider opportunities that science brings, for example through their future career.

“Effective practical science is a vital part of a high-quality science education. Addressing the challenges and recommendations set out in today’s report will  require support from across the sector, including funding and opportunities for continuing professional development for teachers and technicians. We welcome the opportunity to work with Ofsted, the Department for Education, schools and other stakeholders to drive forward this work, with a particular focus on supporting schools in challenging circumstances, where we know the need is greatest.”

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The BSA supports educators through our networks and education programmes. Our blogs on on how to make use of, and access, CREST may be of use to science teachers, technicians and other school staff: