Government must recognise Learned Societies' key role in A-level reform


27 August 2013

The Royal Society of Chemistry's Executive Director of Education and Science, Professor Jim Iley, supports the call from the Council for Science and Technology that learned societies should mediate in the government's move to increase the influence of universities on science A-levels.

He said: "The Royal Society of Chemistry are more than willing to take up this offer and it is a very welcome endorsement of the proposals that we, the Institute of Physics and the Society of Biology have been offering for almost 18 months.

"In that time, despite a number of offers to the Department for Education, we are yet to see any real willingness to formally engage with us."

In a public letter to education secretary Michael Gove, the Council for Science and Technology welcomed intentions to transfer more control of the content and assessment of A-levels to universities, although recognised the plans for achieving this goal remain "unclear".

The letter, signed by the council's co-chairs Mark Walport and Nancy Rothwell, said: "We believe that learned societies such as the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Institute of Physics and the Society of Biology are well placed to articulate the requirements of universities in their appropriate subjects."

The Royal Society of Chemistry also welcomes the council's accompanying briefing note, written by the Wellcome Trust and the Gatsby Foundation, which recommends that no science GCSE or A-level qualification should be awarded "without evidence that students have developed hands-on practical scientific skills".

Professor Iley added: "We cannot stress strongly enough the importance of developing practical skills in the lab, so it is hugely welcome to receive the backing of the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser. 

"The Royal Society of Chemistry have consistently called for measures to ensure the right teachers are available in the right classrooms. Students deserve knowledgeable, creative, specialist teachers - at every stage of their education."

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