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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects

Publication details

Cramman, Helen , Kind, Vanessa, Lyth, Andrew, Gray, Helen, Younger, Kirsty, Gemar, Adam, Eerola, Paivi, Coe, Rob & Kind, Per (2019). Monitoring practical science in schools and colleges. Durham, Durham University.

Author(s) from Durham


This report presents data relating to practical work in science provision in schools1 collected over three years in England and Scotland from 2015 - 2017. This study adopts the SCORE (2013) definition of practical work, namely:
“A learning activity in which students observe, investigate and develop an understanding of the world around them, through direct, hands-on, experience of phenomena or manipulating real objects and materials.” (p 3)
We report on the quantity and breadth of practical work undertaken and how this changed during the study. The discussion identifies possible reasons for observed outcomes. We examine how these data illustrate how school-based practical work in science prepares students for laboratory based courses at university.
Over three years, respondents comprised 4,176 science teachers, heads of science, science technicians, first year science undergraduate students and university staff responsible for first year science laboratory-based courses. Analysis of the heads of science and science teachers responding to the survey showed that they are more highly qualified than the overall teaching workforce, so results should be read with this in mind. Data were collected in year 1 of the study in 2015, during reforms to the Scottish National 5 and Higher qualifications and prior to implementation of reformed GCSE and A level science specifications in England. Data were collected in year 3 of the study (in 2017) post implementation of reforms in Scotland. In England this was at the point when A level students were completing the reformed qualifications for the first time then progressing to undergraduate study, and GCSE students had completed one year of their reformed programmes.

School of Education