By Rosemary Feasey
The Government has recently released the draft of the new National Curriculum for Primary Science in England which is out for consultation until 11July 2012 and then will be subject to further revision. The final science programme will be introduced in primary schools from September 2014.
The changes to the curriculum have been led by an Expert Panel comprised of Tim Oates (Director of Research and Assessment at Cambridge Assessment), and Professors Mary James, Andrew Pollard and Dylan Wiliam.
The draft document indicates that National Curriculum for science aims to ensure all pupils:
- develop scientific knowledge and conceptual understanding through the specific disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics
- develop understanding of the nature, processes and methods of science through practical activity
- are equipped with the scientific knowledge required to understand its uses and implications today and for the future
The changes do have implications for teaching and learning in primary science; the Government is clearly focused on aiming for higher standards in science, as we all are in education, and their route to this is through a greater focus on the acquisition of scientific knowledge.
Much of the content is familiar, although some topics has been re-organised and moved across a key stage. For example, sound and electricity have been taken out of Key Stage 1 and are now taught only in Key Stage 2 in the primary curriculum. There is some new content particularly on the solar system, speed and evolution and an emphasis on studying science biographies (which sadly are listed only in terms of male scientists and not representative of wider gender and race).
The biggest changes are the removal of levels, and that the content is split into year groups, with each year having specific content to be taught, with the promise that the Government is looking at alternative approaches to assessment across the primary age range.
Scientific enquiry does feature across all year groups, with some indication of progression and focus for each year.
So what are the implications for teaching and learning in primary schools? Well, firstly we should note that in Michael Gove’s letter to Tim Oates on the curriculum review he states that the ‘curriculum changes must provide the gifted teachers we have in our classrooms with both a sense of the higher standards we know they are driven to reach and the freedom to develop more innovative and effective approaches to teaching.’ Here we have a clear indication that teachers still have the autonomy to decide how they should teach primary science and we should embrace this and view the new curriculum as an exciting challenge.
It does mean, though, that schools will need to consider how to marry the new curriculum with existing approaches, for example, cross curricular, topic approach. Some schools will need to think about how to support staff in terms of developing subject knowledge so that they can confidently teach the content of the new curriculum. Others will treat this as an ideal opportunity to totally revamp their approach to teaching science and will look forward to being innovative and stretching both staff and pupils.
The Science Learning Network will be offering a range of courses and events to support primary teachers in responding to the new primary science curriculum when published early in 2013. Schools will also be able to request bespoke courses to suit the individual schools or cluster groups by contacting their local centre.
The Primary Science Annual Conference will be focusing on a number of areas of the new primary curriculum.
You may also be interested in the National Science Learning Centre Course Leading Change in the Primary Curriculum.
Filed under: Primary, Science teaching | 1 Comment »