Business leaders raise concern over science curriculum

science lesson The CBI says pupils need hands-on experience of conducting practical experiments

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Business leaders claim the "sheer scale of prescription" in the new science curriculum will leave pupils in England little time for practical experiments.

The CBI says teenagers will develop a serious interest in science only if they have the chance to get hands-on experience in the subject.

The government said the new national curriculum was "far less prescriptive".

The CBI's comments come on the day a consultation into the government's new draft national curriculum closes.

In its submission to the consultation, the CBI also raised concerns about new proposals for design and technology lessons, saying the plans "lacked academic or technical rigour" and were "out of step with the needs of a modern economy".

Start Quote

There is just as much importance placed on practical work in the new science curriculum as the current version”

End Quote Department for Education

It says: "Encouraging young people to develop a serious interest in science depends above all on their having plenty of opportunity to get hands-on experience of conducting practical experiments.

"Achieving that in turn requires science teachers to have flexibility to innovate in how they develop young people's scientific understanding. The scale of detailed prescription on programme content for science in particular runs the risk of hindering creative delivery."

Neil Carberry, the CBI's director of employment and skills, said: "Business demand for science, maths and technology skills has long outstripped supply. It risks squeezing out space for practical, hands-on experiments, which are vital to help children develop an interest in science from the start of school.

"The proposed design and technology curriculum is out of step with the needs of a modern economy. It lacks academic and technical rigour, as well as clear links to the realities of the workplace."

Mr Carberry said that the CBI supported the government's move to make maths more demanding, as well as plans for the majority of pupils to carry on with maths up to the age of 18.

But he called on the government to "send out a powerful signal" by extending the maths curriculum beyond GCSE examinations.

'Expertise and creativity'

A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "The new national curriculum is far less prescriptive and in fact is almost half the size of the current curriculum - 242 pages down from 468.

"There is just as much importance placed on practical work in the new science curriculum as the current version, and in fact there will be more opportunities for children in primary schools to undertake practical experiments.

"We trust teachers to use their expertise and creativity to shape the curriculum to the needs of their pupils. Our reforms also mean that academies and free schools can choose whether they want to follow this curriculum or develop their own, using the best ideas from anywhere in the world to help."

But Shadow schools minister Kevin Brennan said: "It's a huge embarrassment to [Education Secretary] Michael Gove that business leaders are sounding the alarm about his out-of-date curriculum.

"He needs to listen to these warnings that his plans will damage our economic future."

Ministers set out their new curriculum for England's schools earlier this year.

The new curriculum, which is due to be introduced next year, contains plans for pupils to be taught fractions, grammar and how to recite poetry from an early age.

It also outlines proposals for children to be taught a chronological history of Britain, to begin to write simple computer programs at age five and to learn the names of continents, oceans, countries and geographic features, as well as how to use maps and compasses in geography lessons.

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