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Non Scientists teaching Science

Discussion in 'Science' started by mindreader, May 23, 2008.

  1. How can they do practicles even with tech help if they have not practiced before, in my experience a non-specialist science teacher teaching science is no different fron a cover supervisor, just riot control.
  2. Totally agree, but there isnt much i can do about it other than manage the situation
  3. H+S IS the main issue.

    Legally a teacher is 'qualified' (i.e. has QTS) and can teach anything, QTS is not related to the subject in which you trained. What we need to consider is their level of confidence and competence.

    There are some exceptions to this however, e.g. operating machinery in technology where you may need an operator's certificate (wood turning, lathes etc). In science, the key thing to think about is whether or not the person UNDERSTANDS the implications, the risk assessment and the implementation of practical work. It is not enough to just 'practise the experiment' - they need to understand what might go wrong, or what could happen if...

    SMT need to understand that there are serious H+S implications with non-scientists teaching practical science.

    They need to know that any accident could have serious implications, that ity could lead to a charge of negligence after an investigation by the HSE. The teacher asked to teach the science also needs to be aware that they are open to a charge of negligence is there is an accident - a 'I was only following orders' would not work. Theyt are intelligent professionals and, as such should refuse to follow a headteacher's 'orders' if they feel it is morally, ethically or legally wrong to do so.

    What always worked for me in the past was the request for them to put into writing a disclaimer acknowledging your concerns over H+S and an undertaking that they accept responsibility in the event of an accident - the teacher being asked to do the science lesson would also have to sign one for me if they agreed to do the job and wished to do practical work.

    Normally that results in a decision that the person teaches science but with no practical - this is perfectly legal and there is no obligation on schools to deliver science through practical work - it can be done by book work only. (Really tough on the kids however) - you can also challenge this on the issue of equity or provision for all pupils - depriving some is not morally justified in my opinion - parents would also have to be informed of the situation, after all, the kids will probably tell their parents anyway so better to hear it from the Head.

    Finally - depending on the year group there is also the need for SMT to perhaps revise targets for pupil achievement - since it would be unrealistic to expect you to meet targets set when you had a full science complement of teachers to now, when you have a non specialist. This is considerable work, since each class taught would have to have targets adjusted and it could take a lot of talking to adjust these since your estimates I suspect would be considerably lower than theirs, even after they adjust them.
  4. I agree with the lack of practical knowledge being a problem, but come on, lets not be too arrogant here... A good teacher can teach - they just need the subject knowledge - and for a motivated bright spark that's not hard to pick up at KS3 or 4.

    I guess the problem is that the good teachers are busy teaching their own subject and classes... Those that are forced to go outside of their specialisms are often unmoivated so don't put the work in that is required.
  5. I think that you have to take each experiment on it's own. A technology teacher teaching electricity is going to be OK, and anyone can use bioviewers. Not so nice to give them Bunsens or chemicals. Force meters and friction practicals are not so tricky. The class teacher has to assess the health and safety as they are the one where the buck will stop. You can check their requistions on a thursday and decide if you are happy or not then?

    I have covered practical cooking as apparently being a practical teacher I am insured. Didn't really mind as the kids just got on with it.
  6. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Can't you organise the timetable so that groups are shred between a scientist and non scientist so they get one lesson from the book and the next one a prac?
  7. Isn't there an entitlement for the children to be taught by a subject specialist for such long period of absence?

  8. It's a total shambles.
    Bad enough having a biologist teaching physics, but having non specialists teaching the subject just takes the ****.
    We have a handfull of PE staff teaching "science" at our school to year 7's, introducing lovely misconceptions such as "deoxygenated blood is blue" and "food chains show what eats what". These misconceptions can be damn hard to break once ingrained by someone with authority.

    There is lots of info. including reference to "The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999" especially Regulation 13:
    "1. Every employer shall, in entrusting tasks to his employees, take into account their capabilities as regards health and safety.
    2. Every employer shall ensure that his employees are provided with adequate health and safety training."

    Also, use L238 CLEAPSS guide "Health and safety induction and training of science teachers."

    I won't put more here as you can read them yourself if you are not already familiar. This means that you and the cover teacher/s need time to train. Catch 22 as that means more cover!
  10. Poor you - nightmare situation! I agree with others messages - how can a non-specialist be fully aware of all the safety issues and how to deal with them? I don't think it should be allowed. As a science teacher, I have to carry out a risk assessment using CLEAPS and if I didn't and something went wrong, I'd be in big trouble! Would a non-specialist want to be in that position - I think not.

    Children only develop a deeper understanding of science through doing practical exercises and science teachers will be aware of the misconceptions that need to be overcome. Its bad enough having to reteach how to draw arrows to show energy transfers in food chains because of how some are taught at KS2, without pupils being taught blood is blue (like another post said).

    The idea of sharing a group between a science teacher and a non-specialist sounds like the best compromise until you can get a specialist to join the school. I would not be impressed if any of my children had to be taught by a non-specialist and couldn't do any practical work. I'd be hassling the HT to sort it out as my children would be disadvantaged and not getting the same provision as others.

    Do the parents at your school know about the situation? get the kids to tell their parents so they can put pressure on the HT and governors!
  11. Some interesting comment. It sounds to me like a lot of well paid teachers, in very secure jobs, bleating on about how they are so called ‘under paid and over worked’. There is the option to move out of teaching and do something else!
    I know of Primary teaching posts designated with responsibility for science awarded to none scientist candidates i.e. NQT English graduates, even when the Governors and Head had the option to employ a Chemist with a PhD! The feedback given by the Head was that the Governors thought someone with a PhD would be ‘wasted’ teaching in the Primary sector. Additional, the Governors (all present at the interview being female) were unsure a man would ‘fit in’ as well as the successful young female candidate.
    My point is that you have a job be grateful.

  12. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Did you read any of the previous posts before typing this drivel?
  13. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Not one "bleat" about underpaid or overworked unless the mods have deleted them.
    This is a sensible discussion about how best to manage the learning of children during the absence of a colleague so that they can safely experience the full range of expected learning activities.
  14. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    Joined on 04/05/09 and then first post today - Top Lurking that man!
  15. MarkS

    MarkS New commenter

    I can't believe some of these posts - that's you UEAlex and ANYJOB! It's bad enough having biologists teaching physics at KS4...I am a physicist and every year, I need to do training for non-specialists (i.e. biologists) to teach Physics in even a half-decent way.
    OP - you've been put in a tough spot, and I agree with some previous posts that you could spread the use of the non-scientists across groups. Your scientists could then do the practical work and deeper, more abstract concepts, whilst non-scientist lessons could do book work, follow up work etc.
  16. Moony

    Moony Lead commenter

    Are you not able to employ a science specialist? Try posting on the supply and unemployed teachers forum and seeing if theres a science teacher in your area that's looking for some work.
  17. To summarise:
    1) Arrange timetable (if possible) so pupils get some time with a science teacher & some with a non-specialist.
    2) Get the non-specialists to 'know their limits' on H+S issues. This may mean no chemistry experiments & no electricity experiments. But many other experiements would still be OK.
    3) If necessary get non-specialists to 'teach to the test' or 'teach to the worksheet'. Not something I would normally advocate but it may help with controlling the misconceptions, give the teacher more confidence and ensure that the lessons are well focussed. (The returning teacher will then know exactly what has been covered too). Any googlies thrown by the pupils, can be noted down as 'good questions' and the non-scientist can come back next lesson with the answers.
    4) Spend more time managing / chatting to the non-specialists, so they keep confident, on top of the syllabus & you can spot any issues early on.
    5) Ask technicians to do demos if they can - and to explain them to class.
    6) Get extra TAs in classroom during experiments if appropriate.
  18. BelleDuJour

    BelleDuJour Star commenter

    OP was in 2008.
    Baby will be 3 by now!
  19. TecHKnow

    TecHKnow New commenter

    I echo and emphasise the excellent points of my colleague "ilovescience" above". They should be kept sharply in the forefront of this post and also my specific point.
    I have a small issues with UEAlex's point "A good teacher can teach - they just need the subject knowledge......"
    I have met and watched many "good teachers" in my time. They are a credit to their profession. I find in totally incomprehensible to believe that a teacher who has a science qualification at KS3 or KS4 is then capable of teaching the subject at that level - later on in years, even though their comfort or specialism is non-science based.
    I would argue that the quality of learning would sharply fall and I believe that objectives set by senior management/Heads of department would have to be seriously reviewed if this were allowed to happen. I would rather see a department subject specialist science technician teach a class who probably has the science experience and qualifications rather than let a non-science teacher take a science class.
    This is NOT intended to cast doubts upon the competency of the teacher as an individual professional rather to underscore a generally accepted commitment by many to try an deliver effective learning in the classroom environment.

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