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"Learning science without practicals is the equivalent of studying literature without books.” Professor Sir John Holman, University of York. 

In a letter to education secretary Michael Gove The Council for Science and Technology (CST) warns of the loss of practical science lessons as schools focus on preparing pupils for written exams. The council says that without practical learning, science lessons would be "like studying literature without reading books" and are lobbying for laboratory experiments to be protected in a shake-up of GCSEs and A-levels in England.

The CST, which provides strategic advice to the government says that the focus on exam grades is "pushing inspiring practical work into the margins as teachers concentrate on preparing for examinations". In it’s letter to Michael Gove the council states that practical learning should not be an optional extra but that laboratory based experiments are the "essence of science and should be at the heart of science learning"

The council believes that the changes to GCSEs and A-Levels should provide an opportunity to integrate more practical experiments into school science with teachers stemencouraged to "devise innovative and challenging practical based science curricula for their students, including more independent, project-based work". A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "The Council for Science and Technology rightly notes that our reforms 'will give teachers space and freedom' to conduct more experiments and practical’s. By scrapping modules and January assessments, our reforms will end the constant treadmill of exams and leave more time for experiments and practical’s in science. We have also prioritised experiments in our new curriculum. Pupils will focus on practical work in primary school so they are ready to move on to more advanced laboratory work in secondary school."

Accompanying the letter from the CST is a report which argues that there has been a "steady erosion" of laboratory skills in school science over the past 20 years so let’s hope the planned changes provide an opportunity to reverse this trend. Council for Science and Technology


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Launching the Physics botWe at Hemel Private Tuition try to redress this balance. We believe in Practical work and try to do practical work at every available opportunity.

We have a good deal of scientific apparatus and are continually buying more to cover the lack of equipment and resources in schools. For Measuring Gravity using Lego and the NXTmany of my students experiments in school often mean watching You Tube or at best watching the teacher. We believe in hands on work. The students do the experiments. Sometimes they go wrong but the students do learn from their mistakes. The students who do their own experiments benefit the most. They do and they understand and then of course they remember. Science is not just about academic standards, it is also about understanding and doing things in a laboratory. Rates of ReactionThere are many experiments that are too dangerous for the home environment and require expensive items like fume cupboards. But so many other non dangerous experiments can be done or alternatives found that the students can do themselves. I do so many experiments with students that are cheap to do, safe, quick and fun. The students learns that experiments are part of being a scientist. There is of course an initial financial layout for me, but it makes for much better education and this leads to better results.

A Level Chemistry A Level Biology A Level Physics GCSE ScienceIzabella using a low power microscopeThe last two times I have done the hydrolysis of water, the families of the students and some of their friends gathered around to see the testing for hydrogen and oxygen by their children and friends. We like to bring science alive.Testing for Oxygen

We do lots of experiments and with lots of students, but for protection reasons only a couple of my A level students are shown in the photographs.

I don't have a lab technician to prepare the experiments so I encourage the students to help. Often they say this is the best part of the experiments. They set everything up from scratch and this is the achievement.Measuring resonance

We cover a broad range of science practicals using some expensive equipment like our ripple tank to give a first hand view on the structure and properties of waves to simples experiments on waves using plumb lines and weights to measure the Simple Harmonic Motion of a Pendulum. We have oscilloscopes and meters for Physics. We have stereo and binocular compound microscopes, staining kits and quadrats for Biology. We have jointed glassware for refluxing and distillation for Organic Chemistry. We have a range of chemicals and glassware to perform most of the GCSE and A Level chemistry. We are continually adding to the range of equipment to bring the best to your son or daughter.