Science is downgraded in primary schools as English and maths given priority, say inspectors

It is often not taught every day - and half of pupils are given no targets for it

Education Editor

Science lessons in primary schools have been given a lower status since national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds in the subject were scrapped, says a report by inspectors out today.

Many headteachers explicitly told education standards watchdog Ofsted they felt improving teaching in the subject was less important as a result of the abandoning of the tests and the view that inspectors regarded English and maths alone as the key subjects.

"Science is not taught every day in most primary schools," the report by Ofsted added. Nearly half failed to set any targets for pupils - seen as the best way of improving performance, particularly in maths and English. "This emphasises starkly the decline of science," it said.

"Most teachers in schools visited no longer provided pupils with time to revise or review their science knowledge and most prioritised English and mathematics above science, which is still a core subject in the national curriculum," added the report.

However, some schools - on hearing inspectors were planning to visit - organised "a special, and therefore atypical" day of science teaching.

The inspectors concluded: "It may be that these atypical lessons are not fully representative and that routine teaching of science is not always as good as the lessons seen during the inspectors' visits."

The downgrading of science in primary schools was one of a number of criticisms made in the study of science in 91 primary and 89 secondary schools visited by inspectors.

They also found that dull teaching - accompanied by a lack of practical work in the subject - was putting pupils off the subjects.

In some schools, not enough time had been set aside in the timetable for pupils to do practical work.

Exam entry figures also showed the subject was in danger of becoming elitist with "a stark difference" between fee-paying schools and non-selective state schools in the number of entries.

Almost one in four students in private schools sat A-level chemistry and 17 per cent physics compared with one in seven and 10 per cent respectively in non-selective state schools.

Girls, in particular, were likely to ditch physics - with only 11, 390 going on to do it in the sixth-form in 2011 despite 159, 745 getting two good GCSE passes in the sixth-form.

The report concludes: "Uninspiring teaching was one reason pupils gave to inspectors to explain why they did not wish to continue studying science."

In addition, a minority of secondary schools were "pre-occupied with tests and examination results as ends in themselves" rather than aiming to improve pupils' deeper knowledge of the subject.  The report points out that getting good grades in science is not necessarily the same as "getting" science.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said that government reforms would mean more practical science work - both in exams and the curriculum.

He added:  "Ofsted is right - pupils must learn through high-quality practical work if we are to produce the brilliant scientists vital for our economic prosperity.

"Our EBacc (the league table ranking measure for schools' GCSE results) is encouraging more pupils to take physics, chemistry and biology GCSEs and that is feeding through to A-level - where the number of girls taking three sciences is at its highest level for at least 14 years."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Bianca Miller in the final of The Apprentice
tvMark Wright and Bianca Miller fight for Lord Sugar's investment
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
News
i100
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Opilio Recruitment: Product Owner

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Recruitment Genius: Qualified Nursery Practitioner - Sevenoaks

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Room Leader - Nursery

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently have an opportunit...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick