Assessing Practical Science Skills in Schools and Colleges

This scheme supports researchers who want to explore the best ways to assess students’ practical science skills. The research will be used to inform our recommendations for future GCSE and A-level reform.

The scheme is a partnership with the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the Royal Society

Scheme at a glance

This scheme is now closed

Career stage:

Leading a research programme

Where your host organisation is based:


Level of funding:

£15,000 to £300,000

Duration of funding:

Up to 3 years

Who can apply

You can apply for this award if you are:

  • an experienced researcher with expertise in developing and testing assessment, especially of students’ practical skills
  • based at an eligible host organisation in the UK
  • working with individuals or organisations in the UK or overseas who are directly involved in assessment, for example teachers or exam boards.

What we’re looking for

Your proposal should:

  • Address the challenge of assessing students’ practical science skills in a way that is valid, reliable and feasible. We might also consider other ideas that don’t meet these criteria, but develop new ways to assess students’ practical science skills.
  • Allow for future changes to science curricula, such as those currently planned by the Royal Society of Biology, Royal Society of Chemistry and Institute of Physics.
  • Focus on GCSEs and A-levels in England, rather than developing new curricula. Approaches that could be transferred to other qualifications would also be welcome.
  • Involve an element of piloting – the results should be available by mid-2020 at the latest, so they can inform GCSE or A-level reform.

This scheme does not cover the quality assurance of existing qualifications; that is the responsibility of exam boards.

This award offers up to £300,000 over three years. The amount can be used to cover:

  • If you don’t hold an established academic post, we’ll pay your salary.

    If you do, you can ask for funds for research or teaching buy-out leave to cover the cost of a temporary replacement lecturer. Costs:

    • can cover up to 40% of your contracted time
    • are usually for someone more junior than you
    • can be spread across the full period of your grant. 
  • salaries for other project staff, such as project managers or administrators
  • fees for other people who are essential to the proposal, such as consultants
  • We will add an inflation allowance to your award.

    How we calculate your inflation allowance

    Your inflation allowance is based on your total eligible costs and the duration of the award.

    Our inflation allowance is increasing. The following rates apply to grants awarded from 1 October 2017:

    Award duration (in months)Inflation allowance

    These rates are calculated using compound inflation at 2.0% a year from Year 2 onwards.

    What to include in your application

    The costs in your application must be based on current known costs, excluding inflation.

    You should allow for salary pay awards during Year 1. These should be based on pay awards already agreed; if you don’t know what the pay award is yet then use our inflation rate.

  • allowances for steering group members
  • incentives for students and/or teachers to be involved in piloting, such as vouchers or cash
  • research expenses, such as materials, consumables and equipment, directly incurred by the project
  • Up to 5% of your total grant can be for travel costs.

  • costs for attending conferences, including registration fees
  • subsistence, including accommodation, meals and incidentals (such as refreshments). If your administering organisation has a subsistence policy, use their rates.

What we don’t offer

We don’t provide funds for directly allocated or indirect costs unless they’re included on this page.

This scheme is now closed.


Leading a research programme

For researchers with a PhD or the equivalent, and significant postdoctoral research experience.


Projects we've funded