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GCSE science students 'often missing out on practical lessons'

10/02/2017 Joanna

A leading medical research charity has raised concerns about the number of British GCSE students who are missing out on essential opportunities to take part in practical science lessons.

The Wellcome Trust has published a survey that questioned 4,081 children between the ages of 14 to 18, including more than 2,000 who were currently taking their GCSEs, and found that only 45 per cent of those taking these courses are getting the chance to take part in hands-on practical work in science lessons at least once a fortnight.

Moreover, 29 per cent get to do so less than once each month, with pupils' backgrounds and academic situations shown to have a considerable effect on how often they are allowed to do hands-on work.

It was revealed that 83 per cent of those taking triple science courses that count as three GCSEs have done more advanced practicals, such as designing and conducting their own experiment, compared with only 62 per cent of single science pupils.

Moreover, only 36 per cent of GCSE pupils from the most deprived areas of the country were able to do practical experiments at least once a month, compared with 54 per cent of those from the wealthiest areas.

The study also showed that 58 per cent of children wanted to do more practicals in class, with 22 per cent complaining that much of the time they are expected to simply follow instructions when performing experiments, without understanding the purpose of the work.

Hilary Leevers, the Wellcome Trust's head of education and learning, said: "It is absolutely unacceptable that over a quarter of 14 to 16-year-olds said that they are doing practical work less than once a month.

"At the very least, all schools should ensure that they join the half of schools giving their students hands-on science at least once a fortnight. Assessment drives teaching and we are working with partners to support practical science."

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