Dramatic decline in practical science in the classroom

More than 70% of students say they want to do more science experiments at school and yet there has been a sharp decline in practical work in the classroom, with teachers showing videos of practical demonstrations instead.
Image: Lucie Carlier/MA Education

Research by the Royal Society and EngineeringUK reveals that in 2023 only 26% of GCSE students did hands-on practical work at least once a fortnight – this compared to 44% in 2016 and 37% in 2019.

The Science Education Tracker report warns that instead video demonstrations are on the rise and rapidly replacing hands-on practical work and teacher-led demonstrations.

Indeed, while teacher demonstrations have declined from 47% in 2016 to 32% in 2023, videos of practicals have increased over the same period from 39% to 46%.

Ultimately, the report warns: “Among all students in years 7 to 11, the most common form of exposure to practical science was via video: 49% reported watching a video of a practical at least once a fortnight, compared with 44% watching a teacher demonstration, and 38% doing hands-on practical work.”

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