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Teaching Primary Science


Now that the requirement to SAT science has gone we’ve realised just how poor our KS2 science curriculum is. What should we do to give science in our school the boost it needs?

There is no doubt you are not on your own in how you feel. For years science teaching in KS2 has been skewed by the need to teach to the test. Although there are those who would argue that this has never been necessary and they would never dream of doing it, they are few and far between.

At least now you are recognising the inadequacies of your curriculum and there is lots of opportunity to put it right – and how your pupils will love the results.

You need to tackle your science curriculum from several different angles:

  • The training and development of your staff
  • The content of your plans and guidance
  • The content of any assessment that you do


Finally you will need to build in the opportunity for assessment to any changes you make.
 
It is particularly important that your science teachers feel competent and have confidence. In small primary schools this can be particularly difficult and may become more so as local authority development services are paired down. Working with cluster schools may help to alleviate this problem.

Where science works best it is perhaps linked to its real purpose and enquiry. Where pupils are engaged as ‘forensic scientists’ is one example of them learning to apply their knowledge of science and using science enquiry within a problem-solving approach. With SATs in science out of the way, schools may find themselves with more opportunity to bring the subject to life and engage in more practical activities that will inspire pupils more.

Science and creativity are not at opposite poles as people sometimes think. To be a good scientist you need to be creative in your thinking. 
 
The KS2 science SATs might have been removed but the necessity to report on it hasn’t. You must be careful that you do not hold on to the same methods of assessing science as led you into this restricted curriculum in the first place. There is strong evidence for the importance of using formative assessment that is embedded in children’s learning but also provides them with ‘a constructive critique of their progress’. We should also remember  to ask the children. Why not start your endeavours to improve your science curriculum by asking them what they think of your existing curriculum and how it might be improved.

Ideas to help you from our archives


Below we include some links to Imaginative Minds' materials that might help you. They include:

  • Information about working in clusters of schools to develop the science curriculum
  • An interesting study into the views of teachers and experiences of primary science education are included in ‘Primary science in the UK: a scoping study’. The conclusions were that the main impediments to effective primary science were the lack of science background knowledge of teachers, their lack of confidence and training.
  • An article where a group of science subject leaders from a cluster of schools worked collaboratively and held joint INSET days and staff development meetings. The article describes what the benefits of this programme were including the development of a more-skills-based curriculum.
  • An article by Ian Richardson that explains how important scientific enquiry, assessment for learning, science co-ordination and teacher’s subject knowledge are.
  • Sandra Clement, headteacher of West Down School, describes how her school tries to inject science with excitement and a spirit of discovery.
  • The potential for primary science investigations to develop creativity - by Rosemary Feasey.
  • The importance of the cross-curricular dimension and examples of cross-curricular work which develops children’s interest in science as well as improving their skills. Projects that include using literature as a stimulus and developing problem-solving challenges are described.

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