Education Quandary

Are there good maths and science materials for pupils to teach themselves at home?
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The Independent Online

Hilary's advice

GCSE- and A-level distance-learning programmes are available, but they are not quite what this reader has in mind. She is looking for materials like those for Open University courses, but at school level, which, she says, would address the shortage of maths and science teachers and allow all pupils access to the best teaching.

However, determined pupils can easily find help on the internet to get themselves through an exam syllabus, or bolster a weak classroom experience with help and explanations.

The biggest problem is sifting what's available. Lists of useful websites are easily found - go to Spartacus Educational, for example - but it is well worth capitalising on the filtering already done by thoughtful teachers.

Flegg High School, Norfolk, lists a useful list of annotated revision websites on www.flegghighschool.co.uk/pupils/ttrevsites.cfm while Mark McCourt, an "advanced skills teacher from Nottinghamshire" runs emaths.co.uk, with free resources for students and teachers. Then there's www.sciencepages.co.uk, created by secondary school teachers for secondary school pupils.

The tried and tested revision sites - Homework High, run by Channel 4 at Channel4.com/home workhigh; the BBC's Bitesize, at www.bbc.co.uk/schools/revision, Revision Centre at www.revision centre.co.uk and S-cool at www.s-cool.co.uk are all good starting places, too.

Then there are official resources such as past exam papers, available from the exam boards, and curriculum guidance for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

The main thing to avoid is wasting time on dud sites and false leads by finding some good sites and sticking to them. Or, alternatively - old-fashioned idea, this - to follow a textbook.

Readers' advice

BBC jam (bbc.co.uk/jam) is a new free service for five- to 16-year-olds with curriculum-based resources and a combination of video games, audio and animation to bring learning to life.

BBC jam allows children to work at their own pace. Children control what, where, when and how they want to learn. The service will also aim to involve parents more fully in their children's education.

The school subjects to be covered by the BBC jam in 2006 include maths for ages five to seven and science for ages five to seven and seven to nine.

Sarah Scott, Account manager, BBC jam

Our physics teacher was in an accident the Easter before we took our GCSEs, and the supply teacher couldn't explain things to us in a way we could understand. My friends and I used gcse.com for anything we were stuck on and it was what got us through.

Lara Branford, Oxfordshire

Maths can be easily taught by distance learning, but in my experience it is impossible to study science, based on experiments and observation, by yourself. Years ago, I tried to take my chemistry O-level by following a course at home, but it was far too difficult without help. Only when I enrolled for an evening class did I make progress.

Harry Rovey, Dundee

Next quandary

My children's primary school keeps them in at lunchtime if they have been naughty. They get no fresh air in the middle of the day and their afternoon's work suffers. Can the school do this? Should I protest, or will it get my children into more trouble? Do other schools do this?

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce, to arrive no later than next Monday 17 April at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax: 020-7005 2143; or e-mail: h.wilce@btinternet.com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser

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