Q2. Are there sufficient specialist science laboratories in which hands-on practical work can be carried out?

Why this is important

  • Practical work in science increases9 engagement and interest of students, can help to motivate them to achieve their best and can increase their interest in science-related careers. An Ofsted report from December 2013, ‘Maintaining Curiosity’, listed practical science as one of the most effective approaches to stimulate interest in science, and in turn raise achievement
  • It helps students develop a range of practical skills, science knowledge and understanding.
  • It is important to prepare students for the practical component of science-related subjects at university, and science-related employment.  Universities18 and employers19 increasingly complain about the poor practical skills of their new entrants.

Benchmarks

Every school should have enough laboratories so that every timetabled science lesson can take place in a lab.

  • The science department should have a prep room, chemical store rooms, a store cupboard for radioactive materials, storage space (sufficient to store work that will be completed over multiple lessons), and IT provision.
  • A 2013 report37 by SCORE highlights the importance of students having access to “a range of outdoor learning environments”.

Ideas for improvement

  • Governors and school leaders should use the benchmarking established by SCORE to inform strategic planning of budgets for science equipment. See Q1 for more information.
  • SCORE information would probably be most useful for science leaders, in order to check the equipment in their own laboratories and classrooms, as well as the outdoor spaces that students have access to. As a governor, you can check whether or not your school lacks essential equipment.
  • The Field Studies Council has advice and opportunities for schools and colleges on how outdoor practical work can be incorporated into the school curriculum.

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