Being a Science Subject Leader in Primary Schools

Being a Science Subject Leader in Primary Schools

Tips for being a science subject leader in primary schools...

I’m finding that an increasing amount of my time in schools is spent working with middle leaders, including science subject leaders. So, with the benefit of this experience, I thought a ‘Top Ten Tips for the Science Co-ordinator’ blog might be helpful.

Then it became apparent that five main tips were probably enough and that you certainly have plenty to do already, considering you have a class to teach and important things like sleeping and eating to fit into the day.

So here are those five suggestions for being a science subject leader, and a successful one at that. Hopefully, they are enough to provide food for thought and help to focus on how you allocate your leadership time.

  1. Familiarise yourself with how outcomes for science are presented for the end of each key stage in the Inspection Dashboard and RAISEonline. This is new for 2016/17, but as subject leader it is important that you are aware of what this shows. How does your setting compare with other schools nationally? What does it suggest about attainment for groups of pupils? How does pupils’ attainment in science compare with pupils’ attainment in other core subjects in your setting?
  1. Consider how your school moderates teacher assessment in science, especially the elements of ‘working scientifically’. I have found that in some settings, assessment is based far more on the content taught than on the scientific skills the pupils have learned. Is there a balance in your school regarding assessment, and how do you know this?
  1. Did the curriculum work? We’ve had the ‘new’ curriculum for a few years now, so it could be helpful to reflect on how effective the units planned back in 2014 have panned out. What was successful, what might need changing and adapting and what might need a bit of an overhaul? Ask colleagues for feedback and remember the old adage of a curriculum that provides ‘breadth and balance’. Is this true for science across your setting? Did the science curriculum enable pupils to attain at least the expected standard and was this consistent across key stages and for groups of pupils?
  1. Get feedback from the children about their views on science. If you haven’t asked the pupils already, meet with small groups at break times or lunchtime or send out a simple questionnaire. Use this to ascertain their views of science, what they enjoy about the subject, what they have learned recently and over time, and what they find difficult. This can provide you with useful monitoring information to evaluate the effectiveness of science teaching and learning across the school. And it doesn’t take too much time compared with lesson observations for example. This is a quote from the old Ofsted subject survey grade descriptors for outstanding achievement: ‘Pupils are able to think for themselves, take the initiative and raise their own questions about science knowledge, understanding and scientific enquiry.’ Perhaps use the evidence from your conversations with the pupils to reflect on how closely your setting enables them to match this description.
  1. Here is another quote from the same document: ‘They (the pupils) are confident and competent in the full range of stage-related practical skills, taking the initiative in planning, carrying out, recording and evaluating their own scientific investigations.’ So, to what extent does your setting match this statement? Do resources and teacher subject knowledge enable this to be fulfilled? How ‘hands-on’ is the teaching of science? If there is really strong practice in your setting can you help spread this across the school, perhaps be encouraging colleagues to share what they do so well? This links nicely with the ‘working scientifically’ I mentioned in tip number 2 above.

So there you have it.

Five suggestions for science subject leaders in primary schools:

  • Crunch the numbers;
  • Check the moderation of assessment, especially for working scientifically;
  • Ensure the curriculum meets the needs of your pupils;
  • Talk to the children themselves about their learning in science;
  • Make sure they are getting their hands on resources and talking a lot about their work.

It’s not rocket science, just good science.

Continue the Conversation on science subject leaders in the curriculum.

For more information on science and being a science subject leader in primary schools, keep an eye on the Focus Education blog, or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818. If you would like to enquire about Focus inset-consultancy, please head over to our consultancy page.

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