By David Williams
promote science and maths take-up in schools have had only patchy success, the
government’s spending watchdog said today.
A National Audit Office report, Educating the next generation of scientists, found that over the
past five years the Department for Education had increased pupil take-up of
individual science subject GCSEs by 150%.
But despite growing numbers of teenagers taking a combined
‘triple science’ GCSE, almost half of secondary schools were not offering the
qualification in 2009.
Auditors praised the department for focusing resources and
rationalising the number of initiatives designed to improve take-up and
achievement in science and maths. But they concluded: ‘Gaps
and inconsistencies in availability and uptake remain, creating a shortfall in
value for money which the department could and should address in developing its
future programme for science and maths in schools.’
the department had beaten its 2014 targets for numbers taking maths and
chemistry but take-up for physics had increased ‘only slightly’ since 2005/06.
efforts to improve science facilities in schools were also criticised. It had a
target to ensure all school laboratories reached a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’
standard by 2010 but failed to collect data on the requirement. The most recent
research found that facilities were inadequate in a quarter of secondary
the department is also on course to miss the previous government’s target to recruit
more maths and physics teachers by 2014.
Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: ‘No-one would deny that this is a
complex endeavour, and the DfE has had some notable successes.
gaps and inconsistencies that this report identifies now need to be tackled
head-on… for the health of the future UK economy as a whole.’
applauded the increasing take-up of science GCSEs, but noted that many school
science facilities were still poor. ‘Worst of all, young people in
disadvantaged areas are still less likely to be able to study the appropriate
GCSEs,’ she added.