July 2013

Support for teacher training is our key to success

Another two month period has passed where politics have featured heavily in the world of chemistry teaching and learning, ruffling more than just a few feathers. Last issue it was A-level reform. This time, after much indecision and name changing, we have more on the proposed reforms to GCSEs in England, with the launch of yet another consultation document. I can't help but wonder if science education curricula are so heavily influenced by politics in other parts of the world? If our overseas readers would like to share their local experiences, if only for moral support, I'm sure we would be very interested.

Mathematical thinking

Thinking required 

One question this consultation document seeks to find an answer to is 'has the right practical content for science been identified to allow students to gain the skills to progress in the subject?' This is interesting. SCORE (Science Community Representing Education), of which the RSC is a partner member, released a very comprehensive report recently, which shows that many students do not properly experience science education due to a serious lack of resources for practical work in some schools. Surely some joined up thinking is required? We need funding to support the teaching of practical skills, which will help to further engage students in the science they are studying. Engaged and motivated students are more likely to pursue science as a career, laying the foundations for them to become our experts of the future. 

Our feature Set a fungus to catch a fungus is an example of the vital role that chemists play in developing products that make a vital contribution to key global issues such as food production. This, of course, has an important positive knock-on effect to the global economy. 

Key to success 

What lies at the heart of success like this? I'd say teachers - you need good, dedicated teachers to inspire and motivate students to attain the very best. In the current climate, this could be easier said than done though and we have evidence of some very ruffled feathers. I ask you to take a look at Feedback. Mark Crowley and John Carroll from Nottingham Trent University express serious concerns about the future of subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) courses. These give non-speciality graduates the opportunity to continue to train as much-needed chemistry and physics teachers. Unfortunately by the time this issue goes to print the consultation will have closed, but please do read this document so you are aware of the proposed changes to teacher education and the impact this may have. 

In Endpoint, David Read continues this rally in support of teacher training and the need to attract chemistry graduates into the classroom. He acknowledges the challenges, particularly in the light of initial teacher training (ITT) issues, but extols the rewards for the skilled chemistry teacher. A key route to success is in providing essential support for our trainee teachers to allow them to develop their skills. This message is reflected by Elizabeth Page, who explains how undergraduate chemistry courses can be designed to help students develop essential skills allowing them flourish in the workplace and become well rounded professional chemists who can work on these globally important projects. 

Surely it makes sense then to have access to essential resources and well trained teachers? Seems like a win-win to me. Have a lovely summer! 

Karen J Ogilvie, editor 

Provision for practical science lacking

02 July 2013. Spending varies greatly between schools

Set a fungus to catch a fungus

Ian Le Guillou finds out how the success of the synthetic organic fungicide azoxystrobin showcases the importance of organic chemistry to global food production

Thinking out of the box - skills for work

Elizabeth Page explains how a problem-based learning approach to chemistry module design helps students develop the skills they need for employment