As we all know, primary schools play a vital role in developing the essential scientific skills and understanding that young people need in today’s society.
Teachers work incredibly hard to deliver exciting and challenging science content for their pupils, the majority without a background in science themselves – there are currently only 6,000 science graduates distributed across 17,640 primary schools in the UK. This means that the majority of pupils do not have access to a primary science specialist. It is therefore vital that those teaching science to young children have access to appropriate professional development which helps them develop their own knowledge and skills.
To date the majority of evidence that professional development for teachers of primary science has an impact on pupils learning has been qualitative, rather than established through controlled trials. To help address this and build up a body of evidence about the impact of professional development on primary science teaching and learning, the Wellcome Trust is running one of the largest ever randomised controlled trials in educational research.
This groundbreaking study will explore the extent to which an intensive programme of continuing professional development (CPD) for primary science coordinators without a science background improves science teaching and learning in their schools. The study will span two academic years, 2012/13 and 2013/14 and three English regions – London, the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber. Participating schools will be placed into one of three groups, each receiving different levels of CPD with supply cover costs being covered for any courses taken during school time.
One group of schools will take part in the Primary Science Specialist (PSS) CPD programme, which will build science-specific knowledge, pedagogical expertise and leadership skills. Delivered at the National Science Learning Centre in York and regional Science Learning Centres, it will include courses at the centres, online activities and days working in school.
The results of this study will be used to inform the Wellcome Trust, the Department for Education and others about the best way to support primary science teaching. It will also help us to decide whether the PSS programme should be made available across the country.
This is a unique and free opportunity for schools in the three English regions to learn about and improve primary science in their schools and ultimately across the country. If you are a teacher in a state funded school in London, the North West or Yorkshire and the Humber and would like additional information or to take part in the study please contact me.