If you’re teaching science at A level, you’ll already have faced the new system for assessing practicals.  This blog post has a few links that might be of help.

What’s it all about?

From September 2015 the A level exam boards have introduced a series of core/endorsed/required practicals. Students are expected to be familiar with these practicals since they will be examined on them in their written papers. If they want to gain the practical endorsement (a pass/fail as a separate addition to their A level grade – likely to be expected by most university science courses) they must carry out teacher-assessed practicals which cover the necessary skills (Common Practical Assessment Criteria – CPAC). Many schools are getting their students to keep records of these practical in lab books or similar.
Each exam board has come up with a slightly different set of practicals to meet the CPAC criteria but there is a lot of overlap. They have also designated certain apparatus/techniques with which the students should become familiar by carrying out each practical.

What’s getting teachers anxious?

It’s not just new, inexperienced or non-specialist science teachers who are concerned about the new system.

Many colleagues are wondering how long each practical should take and to what depth it should be written up.  These questions should become clearer as the exam board reps host meetings and visit schools.

However, colleagues are most concerned about running the experiments in the first place.  Many of these practicals will have been carried out as demonstrations in the past because schools don’t own multiple sets of the relevant apparatus.  For example, in the physics practicals you need sets of light gates, lasers, diffraction gratings, vibration generators, oscilloscopes.

Happily, there are plenty of people and organisations out there pooling ideas to help, including ideas for apparatus to help ease the burden on science department budgets.

Where can you find support

The Association for Science Education, lots of links here

Then, depending on your subject specialism:

Institute of Physics

Royal Society of Chemistry

Royal Society of Biology

and because my subject is physics, here are a few more physics links!

Practical Physics, which is supported by Nuffield

Teaching Advanced Physics

and ThinkPhysics.

PhysicsPartners/ThinkPhysics filmWith the support of ThinkPhysics and Physics Partners, Alom Shaha has collaborated with others (including me!) to make a for teachers about measuring g by free fall, which we hope will be the first in a series, covering all the endorsed practicals.


also, this resource about how best to use lab- (or log-) books

Some hands-on feedback from teachers trialling the new system, collated by Storify from Twitter

Here are the relevant pages from the exam boards (awarding bodies), which offer support, resources (such as student tracking) and training:




Get in touch if you have some more ideas for supporting science teachers, or have found this or any other resources particularly useful.  Please visit the ThinkPhysics website and leave your comments on the pilot film – we genuinely want your feedback to help us shape the next films.  I’ve done quite a bit of hands-on training with physics teachers on these practicals, so please contact me if you want to book in a training session.