The importance of science in the primary curriculum
I’ve always loved Gary Larson cartoons since I first came across them during my student days and spent what was left of my overdraft on a couple of the anthologies. (For those of you who don’t know who Gary Larson is… He drew the famous ‘Far Side’ Cartoons).
The other day, I found these books in the loft and showed them to my daughters. One of the ongoing themes they noticed was that Gary Larson cartoons frequently involve scientists. And the scientists are behaving… well, childishly, for want of a better word. And they are behaving childishly in the best possible sense. They are investigating enthusiastically; challenging the orthodoxy; and through their actions and reactions (very appropriately for scientists) pointing out the absurdity of common practice and norms. And that is what makes the cartoons so funny and astute.
But these cartoons also got me thinking about science in our schools and the opportunities the subject can provide to build on the innate positive ‘childishness’ of the pupils.
Science had generally taken a bit of a hit in many settings since the introduction of the original National Curriculum and its lofty position as one of the initial core subjects. The national focus moved away pretty quickly to spotlight English and maths. But the recent reporting of science outcomes in RAISEonline and the Inspection Dashboard are indicative of a return to the limelight for science as far as the DfE and Ofsted are concerned.
This shouldn’t be the main reason we consider the effectiveness of the teaching and learning of science in our settings, but we need to take into account the bigger picture and national priorities.
And science can be the wonderful, exciting subject that is the best part of the week for some of our children.
Now we have had the ‘new’ national curriculum for a few years it is maybe worth stepping back and reviewing the effectiveness of science in our schools.
- Is it still a core subject or have some aspects fallen off the end of the timetable and lack clarity in terms of progression?
- How does the work in pupils’ science books compare with their work in their English and maths books? Is it of a comparable standard or is there the ‘twelve o’clock drop-off’ in standards and expectations that occurs in some settings?
- How do our outcomes at the end of each key stage compare to national? And how do they compare to other subjects in our own school? Are there any differences in the performance of groups of pupils?
Science is based on effective questioning and this can really support children in their learning across all subjects too. I end up referring back to effective questioning in much of the training I’m involved in throughout the country. It is of course fundamental to learning. And science is an excellent example of where this can be modelled and taught to great effect. So if you know that questioning is effective in maths and English lessons, perhaps consider the effectiveness of adult and pupils questioning in science as well. If there is best practice in school, spread the word.
And maybe remember to keep science as it appears in the world of Gary Larson: thought-provoking, stimulating and fun.
Continue the Conversation on the importance of science.
For more information on the importance of science in the primary curriculum, keep an eye on the Focus Education blog, find me on twitter @Focustn or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818.
Learning Challenge Curriculum Website
Science Knowledge Mats
Putting Literature at the Heart of Science
Tim has been a headteacher with a successful track record; his last school had a reputation for innovation and their initiatives have been utilised by others and presented internationally.
School improvement has been at the heart of his career, working as an LLE, a School Improvement Partner, Professional Partner as well as an Ofsted inspector and mentor for trainee inspectors.