Literacy skills linked to scientific attainment


Literacy skills are reportedly the strongest and most consistent indicator of pupils’ scientific attainment, according to a new study on socioeconomic status (SES) and science learning.

The research from the University of Oxford shows that reading and writing skills can have a huge impact on how students understand scientific vocabulary and their ability to prepare their own reports on the subject. 

Both the Royal Society and the Education Endowment Fund commissioned the report and have outlined plans to use the results to improve science teaching in schools. 

One of the key aims of the research was to find a reason for any attainment gap in science learning and to work out how best to tackle the issue. 

“Addressing literacy is key to achieving genuine social justice – such skills are gatekeepers for accessto wider knowledge,” Diane Murphy, Founder of literacy consultancy Thinking Reading, told SchoolsWeek. “These findings are very encouraging as it suggests that if we successfully address reasoning and comprehension skills, we can overcome any disadvantage due to SES.”

The Association of Science Education (ASE) has also compiled their own research, which found that primary school teachers often comment on student’s English literacy skills within their workbooks rather than their scientific work.

Marianne Cutler, Director of Curriculum Innovation at ASE, believes the findings show that literacy skills are important, but she insists it is vital that they do not overshadow scientific approaches.

Earlier this month, The Wellcome Trust published their ‘state of the nation’ report which found that just over a fifth of students found studying science ‘boring’, whilst 44% think that you need to be ‘clever’ to do science.

Following this, the Trust revealed that they are set to launch Explorify, a tool to help provide primary school teachers with the resources they need to make science fun and engaging for pupils.

Any primary school teacher will be able to access the tool, which has been designed to encourage discussion and debate within science education, free of charge.