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Improving Science in Colleges

In spring 2011 Ofsted conducted a survey of good practice in science in general further education and sixth form colleges in England. Inspectors visited 15 college science departments to observe teaching and learning and evaluate the quality of provision and departmental leadership and management.

This report identifies the factors which helped these colleges to maintain the high standard or improve the quality of their science provision and makes recommendations for further improvement.

• Although recruitment to science courses in colleges has improved in recent years, the quality of provision remains variable and in 2009-10 the inspection outcomes for science were poor.

• The most effective teachers drew on their experience in science education well to adapt syllabuses to students’ needs. Well-devised sequential schemes of work ensured a good balance of theory and practical activities which took account of students’ starting points and allowed them to make good progress.

• Students made best progress in practical lessons when the teachers actively supported them in setting up apparatus, making observations, and were enthusiastic about the results of their investigations.

• Successful support, both formal and informal, was in place in the best colleges visited to make sure that students gained in confidence and made progress.

• Information learning technology was used well by science teachers in these colleges to strengthen students’ grasp of key concepts and as a means of presenting the results of students’ experiments to their peers.

• The best colleges had a full range of well-attended science enrichment activities, including industrial and employer visits and field trips to stimulate and interest students.

• The science curriculum in colleges across England is broad at advanced level and offers a wide range of academic and vocational opportunities.

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