Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Improving science in colleges - sharing ideas and examples of good practice

An Ofsted report published yesterday identifies the factors which have helped colleges improve the quality of their science provision, or maintain high standards, and makes recommendations for further improvement.

The survey report, Improving science in colleges, a survey of good practice, draws on evidence from inspections carried out in spring 2011, which set out to observe and evaluate teaching and learning and the quality of leadership and management in 18 colleges.

Science education is seen as a key contributor to providing a highly skilled workforce for continued economic development. This report shows that the most successful colleges collaborated with nearby universities to provide courses that led directly to undergraduate study.

Successful science departments also had well-motivated subject teams that developed high-quality resources and agreed joint approaches to assessment and support for students. They innovated by sharing ideas and practice with each other and continually looked for improved ways of working.

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Miriam Rosen, said:

‘We saw evidence of a great deal of good practice around the country including teaching that engaged young people and helped them learn well.

‘The best colleges had a full range of well attended science enrichment activities including visits to industry and employers and field trips to stimulate interest and broaden students’ perspectives on their studies.’

The range of curricula offered and the reason post-16 students favoured some courses over others was another aspect looked at in the survey. For example, vocational courses in forensic science have proved popular with students over the past few years. This has often been attributed to the success of television programmes which have brought the work of forensic scientists to the attention of a wider audience.

The best colleges offered virtual learning environments in science and this was seen as a trusted resource by students and teachers alike. Many students worked online and at home and valued the easy access to science resources and the ability to communicate freely with their teachers and submit work for marking online.

The report recommends that schools, colleges, post-16 partnerships and careers services should work together to make sure that all Key Stage 4 pupils get access to independent advice about the full range of options available to them so that the full spectrum of science, technology, engineering and maths related career options are available.

College managers should help staff develop techniques to ensure that everyone in a class can contribute and follow discussions. Teachers and college managers should provide rigorous initial assessments for science students, especially for literacy and numeracy skills, to ensure effective enrolment on the right courses.

The report makes some important recommendations to government departments and leaders and managers in the post-16 sector. The Department for Education and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, with the awarding bodies, should work together to develop clear information about academic and vocational science courses for post-16 students, both at foundation and intermediate level.

Notes to editors

  1. The report is available on the Ofsted website www.ofsted.gov.uk
  2. The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.
  3. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 5911 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 0300 123 1231 between 8.30am - 6.00pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.

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