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IOP responds to Ofsted science report

8 February 2023

Need for increased emphasis on developing students’ disciplinary knowledge in physics and evidence of whole-school equity plans. 

The IOP has welcomed the recent publication of Ofsted’s science curriculum report.

These subject-specific reports can provide an important window into current practices in schools and helpful evidence for what works in improving students’ education and removing barriers to access.

Commenting, Louis Barson, the IOP’s director of science, innovation and skills, said: “We note that these findings support previous research that high-quality, hands-on practical work is important. As well as motivating students and embedding an understanding of the substantive knowledge of the sciences, it reinforces important ideas relating to the sciences as empirical disciplines.

“Like the report’s authors, we would like to see an increased emphasis on developing students’ disciplinary knowledge within physics, something that relies on students having access to specialist teachers who are able to provide physics explanations in a ‘physics’ way and to model what it is to think like a physicist.

“In-field teachers are also more able to bring in wider knowledge and connect up ideas within their discipline – something that was noted as being important for a high-quality lesson, but was often missing.

“We also share concerns that the content load within the curriculum can lead to the pace being too high – such that it reduces the amount of practical work and prevents proper assimilation, and consolidation of connected knowledge. 

“One feature of school activity that is absent from this report is evidence of inclusion practices: the existence of whole-school equity plans, their implementation and their measured impact on outcomes for students from under-represented groups. 

“In our Limit Less manifesto for change we are calling for all teachers to be trained in addressing biases, for science teachers to use inclusive practices in their lessons and for the inspectorate to look for and record schools’ efforts to address injustice through inclusive practices. 

“We recommend that inspections begin to monitor issues of inclusion (policies, practices and student outcomes by under-represented groups) and report on them as part of the inspection, in the next subject report and as a special issue.”