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Better literacy skills 'could help close attainment gap in science'

25/09/2017 Joanna

Steps to enhance literacy standards could lead to improved science results for disadvantaged pupils in primary and secondary schools, according to new research.

A report published by the Education Endowment Foundation and the Royal Society has suggested that better reading and writing skills could make it easier for students to test theories through experiments and trials, a crucial aspect of effective scientific learning.

The research - conducted by the Department of Education at the University of Oxford - reviewed the best international research to identify interventions and approaches that have been shown to have a positive impact on young people's learning outcomes, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It was found that the strongest factor affecting science scores is how well students understand written texts, with poor literacy skills affecting the ability to understand scientific vocabulary and prepare scientific reports.

As such, strategies to boost disadvantaged pupils' reading comprehension could have a positive impact on their achievement in science too, enhancing their ability to reason scientifically and carry out fair tests in line with the materials they are given to read.

It was also shown that a lack of opportunities to learn is a major factor causing lower achievement in science, with programmes allowing pupils to visit places such as university laboratories or museums boosting science grades for secondary school pupils.

Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: "Pupils from disadvantaged homes are much less likely than their peers to get good grades in science and to go on to take a science subject at A-level and beyond.

"Helping schools to use evidence and to understand better the most effective ways to improve results is the best way to tackle this country's stark science attainment gap. Today's review identifies some promising approaches with the potential to raise standards and close the gap."

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