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The science curriculum in our primary schools

Published: 18 January 2019

Last week the Ogden Trust team and a number of science leaders from our partnership schools attended the 2019 ASE Annual Conference at Birmingham University. There was a diverse programme of speakers and workshops for both primary and secondary science education. Amanda Poole, Ogden lead for resource development, feeds back on one of the presentations, delivered by HMI inspector, Matthew Newberry.

Mr Newberry introduced the new education inspection framework and posed some interesting questions for schools evaluating their science provision: ‘Towards the new Education Inspection Framework 2019 – OFSTED’.

Mr Newberry went on to summarise the findings of the recent review of primary science in schools where 234 primary schools were inspected with a focus on science. It was encouraging to hear that in three quarters of the schools inspected, pupils engaged in practical investigations in at least half of their science lessons. But the inspection still highlighted concerns about the lack of time allocated to the study of science in primary schools. From their review, the inspectors concluded that only a third of the schools inspected were ensuring pupils were well prepared for studying science at KS3.

ASE photo - man in front of ASE sign

OFSTED doesn’t recommend the amount of time that should be dedicated to different subject areas, but Mr Newberry suggested that when school leaders make decisions about how much time is dedicated to science learning they need to consider the Intent, Implementation and Impact of the science curriculum in their schools. He suggested some useful questions to support leaders in these deliberations:

  • Is there complete coverage of the National Curriculum in the key stage? Within this, are their sufficient opportunities to develop ‘working scientifically’ skills over time?
  • Is there an appropriate balance of biology, chemistry and physics content?
  • How does the curriculum build on previous learning then sequence, develop and embed knowledge?
  • What is your rationale for the balance of practical and theory work you offer?
  • Are teachers’ expectations of literacy and mathematics high enough in science?
  • What will be assessed and how will the quality of pupils’ learning be evaluated? – How can you be sure pupils have acquired particular knowledge and skills rather than just experienced them?

Why not think about these questions in relation the science curriculum in your school? Are there any questions you can’t answer with confidence? What areas need further development? Are you dedicating sufficient time to science learning? Does your school need to focus on the development of ‘working scientifically’ skills?

Don’t forget the Ogden collection of ‘working scientifically’ guides which can be helpful in developing the different types of enquiry across KS1 and KS2. They are available to download from our website. We are currently developing a self-assessment tool for ‘working scientifically’ skills that will be available in the summer term.

In an Ogden partnership?

When you have participated in all four of the primary Phizzi CPD days, freely available to our partnerships, you will have all the expertise and resources needed to ensure that your school provides rich physics learning experiences while developing different skills for ‘working scientifically’.

If you are interested in forming a partnership, working with your local schools to enhance the teaching and learning of physics, you can find out more about the programme on the partnership pages of this website.

Applications for new partnerships (starting in September 2022) are now open.


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