Science A level practicals encounter axe regardless of barage of criticism, says MP

A move to axe practicals from science A-level assessments in England goes towards suggestions from the country’s most respected scientific bodies, a senior MP has warned.

Ministers have pushed ahead with the strategies towards practically unanimous opposition from organisations such as the Royal Society and the government’s own Council for Science and Technology, explained Andrew Miller, the chair of the Commons science and technological innovation committee.

Ofqual, the exams watchdog, has decided to remove lab experiments from A-degree assessments in favour of a sensible exam that will count in the direction of a separate qualification. The new sensible program will be taught from up coming year and carries only a pass or fail grade.

It will be feasible for college students to get the highest A* grade in a science exam even if they fail the useful certificate. The first of the revised exams are to be taken in 2017.

“I am astounded that when the recent choice on A-degree practical science is acquiring so a lot criticism, that Ofqual are ploughing ahead regardless,” Miller said. “When consultations encounter a widespread concern there must be a significant rethink on the direction of travel.”

Miller fears that the removal of practicals from science A-level gradings could lead to colleges neglecting the teaching of experimental abilities that are vital for these who want to pursue careers in the sciences.

He raised his issues in a video letter to Nick Gibb, the minister for college reform, following convening a meeting with some of the country’s foremost authorities on science schooling. In the film Miller pleaded with Gibb to intervene: “I urge ministers to listen to individuals folks who say that this decision by Ofqual will not deal with the issues that Ofqual identified with science educating.”

But in a reply letter, the minister said he would not try out to quit Ofqual. “The obligation for how functionality in qualifications is assessed lies with Ofqual. It is crucial that the Department for Education does not undermine that independence,” he wrote.

About a quarter of A-level courses in physics, biology and chemistry are created up of practical work. The ideas from Ofqual, which will be extended to GCSEs as well, aim to deal with alleged malpractice, the place cheating and generous marking from teachers see college students scoring a lot increased in their practicals than in their written exams.

But Miller argues that Ofqual’s reforms will fail to fix the problem. “I have no doubt that these modifications will clean up the grade distributions in science A levels, but the considerations of malpractice among teachers have been side-stepped rather than addressed,” he explained.

“I am most concerned that college students will now be forced to do science practicals that both they and their teachers know will have no worth as far as qualifications go. There is no level going on about doing much more practicals if the recognised worth of people practicals is vastly diminished,” he said.

He went on: “I have deep considerations about ministers who fail to pay attention to the wider neighborhood and appear to hide behind the selections of independent bodies claiming that they have no influence. Ministers are there to provide democratic accountability not just to rubber stamp the decisions of regulatory bodies.”

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