21 November, 2006

My democratic experiment concludes

...and, I have to say, the result is surprisingly positive. As promised in his last response, I received a follow-up letter from my MP John Denham, which I reproduce below. Bolded words were underlined in pen in the original.

Thank you for contacting me regarding the "Truth In Science" resource packs.

Neither the Department for Skills and Education nor the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) have been involved in the development or distribution of the "Truth In Science" resource packs to schools.

It is up to schools to decide what teaching resources they need to help them deliver the national curriculum. However the Minister agrees with you that the "Truth In Science" information is not a suitable resource for the science curriculum.

The programme of study sets out the legal requirements of the national curriculum. There are two programmes currently operating in key stage 4 sciences:

  • Pupils in year 11 are following the 2000 programme of study
  • Pupils in year 10 are following the 2006 programme of study

Both programmes include a focus on the nature of science as a subject discipline including what constitutes scientific evidence and how this is established by experimentation. Pupils also learn about scientific theories with extensive supporting evidence from established bodies of scientific knowledge.

The Minister would like to assure you that he is working with the QCA to find a suitable way of communicating to schools that the "Truth In Science" is not part of the science national curriculum.

Yours sincerely,

For non-Brits, Year 11 are 15/16 year-olds (the last year of compulsory education, at the end of which the students sit GCSE exams), Year 10 are 14/15 year-olds. Follow the links to compare the relevent parts of the 2000 programme of study, and the 2006 version. The troubling section 1 b) is being changed significantly in the newer standards, which is in itself somewhat reassuring.

When I started this little experiment I was not exactly optimistic about a positive outcome - but I have been very pleasantly surprised. Not only did my MP acknowledge my communications, but he actually took action based on my concerns. Even better, it seems that those in a position to actually do something are aware of and concerned about the actions of Truth In Science (lets just hope that they don't have to run it past the PM first). This is more due to the efforts of others, I suspect, but every little helps, and this whole episode demonstrates that, through tools like writetothem, it isn't hard to supply that little.

Although the experiences of others show that I may be quite lucky to have a conscientious and savvy MP (he's even started a blog specifically to get feedback from his constituents), I find myself in the happy position of having had a cynical prediction - about politics, no less - proved wrong. In my next post: gravity defying pigs.

Update: Unbearable Lightness has also got a positive response; postblogger is still drumming his fingers, and has finally named and shamed his rather up-of-himself MP.


Anonymous said...

Thats pretty much normal behaviour for MP's. Its a straightforwards letter, does not commit themselves to anything too demanding, but leaves it clear that they are keeping a few cone cells on the matter, and yet it probably took 10 mins to whip up once the reply had arrived from the gvt.
MP's are buys people, they dont have time to do much, unless it catches their attention.
In your case this is definitely a good start, and probably all that is to be expected, but as one of many peopel to have written to their MP's, we have hopefully lit enough of a fire under the Education dept that Truthiness in science get junked. So keep writing if anything else comes up. Or maybe you would like to agitate on another matter or two?

CJR said...

All true, but he did spend more time on the matter than he could have done (writing to the Minister, etc.) and I think that deserves some kudos.

Personally, I'd love to have enough confidence in the state of science education in this country that students inflicted with the Truth in Science pack would clearly see it for the dreck it is. Maybe that's something we need to start working on - promoting science as a way of thinking rather than a list of facts.