Primary Science for Trainee Teachers


Judith Roden & James Archer

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    We would like to thank the headteachers and staff of:

    • Newington Community Primary School, Ramsgate
    • Hythe Bay Church of England Primary School and Children's Centre
    • Sturry Church of England Primary School, Canterbury
    • St. John's Church of England Primary School, Canterbury

    Thanks go to colleagues Kerry Jordan-Daus, William Stow, the Primary Science Team at Canterbury Christ Church University past and present especially Tim Smith and Sarah Gourlay.

    We would also like to thank the students from our past and present primary science courses at Canterbury Christ Church University, and especially our PGCE-Enhanced Studies groups from recent years and the 2012 and 2013 Teach First Primary and Early Years participants.

    Thanks also to David Ponsonby for permission to use notes on classification of plant and animal kingdoms, in Chapter 5, based on standard nomenclature used by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

    Finally, with special thanks to Amy Archer and Paddy Grinter for their support and encouragement, especially in the writing of this book.

    About the Authors and Series Editor

    Judith Roden is a Principal Lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University where she is involved in teaching primary science. Much of her work is spent in school supporting Teach First participants, School Direct students and other students in PGCE and undergraduate Teacher Education Programmes. Currently she is the national lead tutor for Teach First Primary Science. She has written and edited a number of popular primary science textbooks over the past ten years. She has also held chartered Science Teacher Status for a number of years and in 2014 received a Teaching Fellowship Award from her university.

    James Archer has wide experience in supporting trainee primary teachers in science. Currently he is a Lecturer in Primary Science Education at Bradford College. Previously he was a Senior Lecturer in Primary Science Education at Canterbury Christ Church University. He has a passion for child-centred science enquiry. Prior to working at Canterbury James taught in both the primary and secondary phases in England and South Africa. In these settings he held various responsibilities for leading and co-ordination of science. He has also been an advisor in primary science supporting a cluster of schools.

    Alice Hansen is the Director of Children Count Ltd, an education consultancy company that provides continuing professional development for teachers in primary mathematics education and primary schools in curriculum development in England and abroad. Prior to her current role, she was a primary school teacher and senior lecturer in primary education before becoming a programme leader of a teacher-training programme. Alice is an active researcher and her research interests include technology-enhanced learning. Her current research focuses on developing effective tasks for children to develop their conceptual understanding of fractions.


    This statement of purpose invites scrutiny and comment and raises questions about how best to implement the 2014 science National Curriculum at Key Stages 1 and 2.

    About this Book

    This book is intended to support all Early Years and primary trainees on all courses of initial teacher training in England and has been tailored to the 2014 science National Curriculum. Newly qualified and more experienced primary teachers may also find this book useful as they begin to make sense of the new science National Curriculum. The Teaching Standards require all teachers to have a secure understanding of the subjects that they are required to teach and an awareness of the strategies that can foster effective learning in science. You may feel that you already have a secure knowledge of the science that underpins the science National Curriculum, but this in itself is insufficient in terms of helping children to learn science at an appropriate level and to encourage them to be scientists. You need to provide an excellent role model to enthuse and inspire the next generation of young scientists.

    Scientific Literacy

    Language and literacy run deeply in the human experience. Within science it has been suggested there are numerous literacies (Webb, 2007). Developing a child's competence and confidence in their ability to converse in the language of science, a language that can be familiar and alien at the same time, is one of the most important tasks of the primary teacher. To do this a level of sophistication in scientific dialect is required. This book aims to support the beginning teacher's quest for conceptual knowledge development through the use of examples and practical guidance in order to enhance the student teacher's scientific literacy.

    More importantly, developing a children's scientific literacy involves supporting their emergent enquiry skills in a way that enables them to engage in the scientific process. Just as language acquisition starts with the basic building blocks of listening and turn-taking, developing a child's scientific literacy is firmly rooted in improving the foundational skills of observing and exploring. Through the development of a scientific literacy in this sense children are afforded the opportunity to improve skills such as questioning, critical thinking and evaluating that benefit the wider curriculum.

    The Importance of Science

    It is important that the UK has enough well-qualified scientists to meet the demand, but there is much evidence to suggest that there is a shortfall in the numbers of young people coming through into science-related occupations. This explains why science continues to hold core subject status with the National Curriculum. The ASPIRE Project reported concern that women, and working-class and some minority ethnic groups are under-represented in the study of science, especially in the physical sciences and engineering (Archer et al., 2013). Nevertheless, scientists in the UK remain among the best in the world. Schools and universities prepare the most talented and able scientists extremely well, but there is a big gap in achievement between the most able and the least able pupils in terms of success in science subjects. Compared to other countries in the world, many young people in the UK who have potential in science fail to opt for science subjects that would lead them to careers in science. Overall, this situation is very worrying.

    Children not only need to perform well in science in primary schools but also need to enjoy science and to recognise that science is important in their lives. Ofsted (2013, p.4) reported that the best science teachers set out first to ‘maintain curiosity’ in their pupils and that this not only fosters enthusiasm for science, but also helps pupils fulfil their potential. Children must find their science education stimulating and memorable so they continue to study science for as long as possible. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that many children do enjoy science at primary level (Archer et al., 2013), especially practical work (Ofsted, 2013), particularly when it is well taught and when they have ownership over some of their work. However, despite enjoying science, they do not see themselves as scientists and do not consider taking up a scientific job when they leave education. The ASPIRE Project (Archer et al., 2013) found that only approximately 15 per cent of young people aspire to become scientists. Surprisingly, perhaps, they concluded that at least among the 10–14 year olds in the study, negative views of school science are not the problem. Their findings showed that most young people report liking school science from Year 6 to Year 9 and that 42 per cent of Year 9 students were interested in studying more science in the future. Students also reported positive views of scientists and said that their parents thought that it was important for them to learn science. However, despite these widely-held positive views, the majority of 10–14 year olds do not aspire to become scientists.

    The problem seems to relate to children not fully understanding what scientists do, except at a very superficial level. Archer et al. (2013) found that most students and families are not aware where science can lead to and that ‘the brainy image of scientists and science careers’ puts many pupils off. Children's perceptions of science and scientists have been the focus of research for many years across the world. Although there may be some evidence to suggest that children's perceptions may now go beyond the stereotypical view of the scientist, due to recent changes in the ways that scientists are presented in the media and to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives, clearly there is still a problem, particularly with girls continuing to see science as male dominated.

    The challenge for you is to raise your children's awareness of the importance of science in their lives, whether they are male or female, no matter what their socio-economic background. You need to help children not only to enjoy science and to be curious, but also to see the relevance of science in their lives. We hope that this book will help you to achieve this in your teaching.

    Further Reading
    Harlen H. (ed) (2012) Principles and big ideas of science education. Hatfield: Association for Science Education (ASE). Available at: (accessed 11/6/14).
    Archer L., Osborne J., Dewitt J., Dillon J., Wong B. and Willis B. (2013) ASPIRES Young people and career aspirations 10–14. London: King's College London
    Department for Education (2013) Science programmes of study: Key stages 1 and 2 September 2013 London: DfE.
    Ofsted (2013) Maintaining curiosity: A survey into science education in schools. Manchester: Ofsted.
    Webb p. (ed) (2007) Scientific literacy: A new synthesis. Port Elizabeth, South South Africa: Bay Books.
  • Appendix 1: Model Answers to Self-assessment Questions

    Chapter 1 – Working Scientifically
    • What is science?

      A body of knowledge and a way of working.

    • What are the process skills?

      There is no definitive list. However, this chapter has looked at:

      • questioning;
      • observation;
      • hypothesis and prediction;
      • recording, classifying and presenting;
      • concluding and evaluating.
    • What are the different types of investigation that are seen in the primary phase?

      The different types of investigation that this chapter has looked at are:

      • classifying and identifying;
      • fair testing;
      • pattern seeking;
      • investigating models;
      • exploring;
      • making things.
    Chapter 2 – Plants
    • What will your approach be to teaching about plants both in the inside and outside environments? Can you explain why you will adopt this approach?

    Although there are numerous ways to answer this question, a model answer should include the following aspects where children are:

    • active learners, being given opportunities for both ‘hands-on’ and ‘minds-on’ activities;
    • involved in exploration, observation, raising questions, collecting data and involving the use of the other science process skills;
    • able to identify plants using keys and other methods? including pictures of trees and other plants;
    • given some ownership over their learning.
    • What are the main points of learning about plants that are important for your age group of children?

    The answer to this question depends upon which age-range you are teaching. Match your answer to the National Programme of Study for your year group, for example EYFS, NC Key Stage 1, NC Lower Key Stage 2 or NC Upper Key Stage 2.

    • How will this translate into practice in your classroom?

    Look back at the subject knowledge that underpins the teaching of this topic.

    • Make a quick sketch of the parts of a plant.
    • Explain what the roots are for.

    Roots of a plant take in water and mineral salts which pass up the stem to the rest of the plant. Water passes into the root hairs from water around them by osmosis.

    • Explain why flowering plants have flowers.

    Flowering plants have flowers which are the plant's reproductive system. They carry out sexual reproduction and make sex cells.

    • Explain the role of the stem.

    Stems transport water from the roots through xylem vessels which is similar to water being sucked through a straw. Stems allow for a continuous flow of water from the roots to the leaves. This is called the transpiration stream.

    • Explain why a plant has seeds or fruits.

    Seeds and fruits are formed following sexual fertilisation in the flower. Seeds, which are often contained inside a fruit, eventually grow into a new plant.

    Picture of a Plant

    • Explain how fertilisation occurs in flowering plants.

    Fertilisation in a flowering plant happens when a pollen nucleus joins with an egg nucleus to make a seed.

    • What do corms, seeds and bulbs all have in common?

    Corms, seeds and bulbs are the storage organs essential for the growth of new plants. They contain stored food that is used by the new plant as it starts to develop until leaves are formed.

    • Explain the conditions needed for germination.

    Germination will only occur when conditions are right. Germination occurs when the embryo begins to grow. The three conditions for germination are:

    • water to allow the seed to swell and burst open;
    • oxygen for respiration;
    • warmth.

    The way that this translates into practice in your classroom should involve a match between your answers to 1 and 2 above.

    Chapter 3 – Animals Including Humans: The Parts of the Body, the Senses, Teeth, Nutrition and the Digestive System
    • Name the main parts of the body associated with the digestive system. What function does each part perform?

    The main parts of the body associated with the digestive system are the mouth, gullet (oesophagus), stomach, small intestine and large intestine. They perform the following functions.

    • Mouth – food is chewed and mixed with saliva in the mouth.
    • Gullet – the gullet squeezes the food to push it along through the digestive system.
    • Stomach – the stomach contains digestive juices and hydrochloric acid that start to make food ready to be digested. The muscles in the stomach make sure that the mashed food is mixed up with the digestive juices.
    • Small intestine – the small intestine slowly squeezes the digested food along towards the large intestine, absorbing digested food through its wall into the blood.
    • Large intestine – when food reaches the large intestine there is very little left. Water is absorbed into the blood leaving solid waste products that are stored in the rectum ready for ejection from the body.
    • Name the different kinds of teeth found in the human body. Explain the difference in shape and the function of each in preparing food for digestion.

    There are three different types of teeth found in the human body:

    • incisors – chisel shaped for biting and cutting;
    • canines – pointed for piercing and tearing;
    • premolars – have uneven ‘cusps’ for grinding and chewing;
    • molars – chew up food.
    • In this chapter we have begun to explore potential cross-curricular links to support the teaching of humans and other animals. What other possible links can you identify? How might these be developed?

    There are a number of possible cross-curricular links to support the teaching of humans and other animals including hygiene and healthy eating. The important thing here is to remember that it is unwise to make too many cross-curricular links to other subjects because of the potential problem of losing the science focus.

    Chapter 4 – Animals Including Humans: Growth Reproduction and the Circulatory System
    • What teaching and learning strategies will you employ in the teaching of this topic to avoid the filling in of worksheets or didactic teaching?

      Abstract topics like those in this chapter require a creative approach and the use of models, including role-play, if children are to understand better the aspects of science that are not able to be observed directly.

    • How would you organise your class into groups for work of this kind to maximise the opportunities for learning of all children in your class?

      Grouping children for science is a very personal thing. Evidence suggests that pairs or groups of three are best for ensuring all children have a role in any practical work. Mixed ability and friendship groups are popular ways of grouping children for science, but ability groups might also be possible. Some teachers find grouping children by their ideas about particular concepts useful to challenge and progress their learning. Evidence suggests that boys and girls approach science in different ways, so all-boy and all-girl groups as well as mixed gender groups might be considered. You might also want to think about grouping your children differently from time to time to ensure that all children take different roles in group work.

    • What differences are there in the support systems of a) simple animals like the amoeba b) invertebrates and c) vertebrates?

      • Simple animals like the amoeba consist of one cell. The amoeba moves by changing the shape of its simple cell wall.
      • Invertebrates have an exoskeleton. An exoskeleton is like a suit of armour which protects and supports the body.
      • Vertebrates have an endoskeleton which is located inside the body.
    • Explain how the bones and muscles work together to move a vertebrate around.

      The bones and muscles work together to move a vertebrate around. Muscles work by contracting and relaxing. They provide the force (pull) to move the bones at the joints.

    • What are the main functions of the heart and circulation system?

      The main function of the heart is to pump and to continuously circulate blood around the body. Arteries carry blood away from the heart and veins carry blood to the heart. The blood transports essential materials such as oxygen to the parts of the body where it is needed. Blood also collects waste products such as CO2 for excretion from the body.

    Chapter 5 – Variety of Life: The Characteristics of Living Things, Variation and Classification
    • What are the seven processes of living things?

      The seven processes of living things are:

      • feeding – for energy and growth;
      • respiration – the process whereby energy is extracted from food;
      • movement – both plants and animals move, but in different ways; plants move as they grow towards the light and roots move down into the soil, while animals move their whole bodies;
      • growth – all living things grow; plants grow all their lives, while animals stop growing when they become adult;
      • excretion – all living things produce waste substances; excretion is the process by which waste products are removed from the body of plants and animals;
      • sensitivity – living things react to things around them; plants move towards the light, while animals have sense organs;
      • reproduction – all living things need to make new individuals like themselves; otherwise the type of animal or plant would die out.
    • What misconceptions might you encounter when teaching this topic? How might you challenge these?

      Below are a range of misconceptions cited in other texts.

      • Only 25 per cent of 7 year olds and 60 per cent of 11 year olds consider humans to be animals. As humans do not have four legs, fur or make animal noises they are often not considered animals (Peacock et al., 2009, p24).
      • There are a number of conceptions relating to animal groups that are commonly held by children and many adults. For example, young children will often be confused because although it can fly, a bat is a mammal. Similarly, a penguin can be confusing because although it is a bird, it does not fly, and dolphins are often considered to be fish rather than mammals (Ward et al., 2005).
      • Children believe that humans are a distinct category and not an animal as animals do not have the same senses as humans (Guest, 2003).
      • Children are often confused with regards to the classification of animals. Dolphins are often considered to be fish rather than mammals and the difference between reptiles and amphibians is not always clear (Ward et al., 2008).

      Such ideas can be challenged through observation, discussion, classification activities, research and in some instances via practical investigation.

    • What kind of keys can help children in their classification of living things?

      Keys come in a number of styles. Some are based on systematic questions or provide a choice of statements to guide identification through observation. Children of all ages can use keys and older children should construct a key to help them to understand the process. Asking older children to construct a simple key for younger children can be particularly effective in progressing their learning about the variety of living things.

    • How would you use the outdoors to further your children's understanding of the characteristics of living things?

      There are numerous ways that you could use the outdoors to further your children's understanding of the characteristics of living things. They include such activities as:

      • magic spot activities - where children are asked to find a spot and engage one of their five senses;
      • string trails – where children follow a coloured string and stop at various points;
      • creating living things snap shots of living things (using a strip of card with double-sided sticky tape along its length. As living things are collected, they are stuck acrosss the card as a record);
      • undertaking observational drawings of living things;
      • placing time lapse cameras facing living things and sharing the recordings with children;
      • installing pond and bird box cameras with live feeds to school websites for children to be able to access and observe at any point.
    Chapter 6 – Habitats
    • Explain what you understand by the term ‘habitat’.

      A ‘habitat’ is a place where living organisms live. Habitats have the conditions that the inhabitants need to survive.

    • Give three examples of different habitats and explain the kinds of animals and plants that might be found in those habitats.

      There are many different habitats which have different conditions for survival of the organisms that live there. There are many answers to this question: examples of habitats include dry walls, forests, deserts and polar regions.

    • Using your answers to question 2 draw:

      • a simple food chain
      • a food web

      to show the feeding relationships within the organisms in your diagrams.

      Your answers in 2 will determine your answers here. It is important to remember the difference between a food chain and a food web.

      • Simple food chains show what eats what in a simple habitat. Arrows in the food chain indicate the direction of the energy and the arrow itself shows what is eaten by what.
      • A food web is more complex than a food chain indicating that animals eat more than one thing. A food web consists of many food chains.
    Chapter 7 – Everyday Materials: Their Uses, Properties and Changes of Materials
    • What is a material?

      The term ‘material’ in science refers to any substance – solid, liquid or gas.

    • What is a mixture?

      A mixture is a number of substances that are mixed together without reacting together in a chemical reaction.

    • What are the different ways of separating a mixture?

      Mixtures can be separated physically by, for example, sieving, including filtering, and magnetic separation.

    • Explain the differences between physical and chemical changes.

      Physical changes involve the result of the change of state of the same substance, for example melting ice or boiling water or the mixing of two or more substances that co-exist together, without taking part in a chemical reaction, such as when salt dissolves in water. Physical changes are reversible. Chemical changes are involved when two or more substances are mixed together and they undergo a chemical reaction. Chemical changes are usually not reversible and the substances produced during the reaction are very different from the initial materials in the mixture. The materials have been changed chemically.

    • Give three examples of physical change.

      Examples of physical change include:

      • salt dissolving in water;
      • chocolate or ice melting;
      • water or perfume evaporating;
      • water boiling.
    • Give three examples of chemical change.

      Examples of chemical change include:

      • fruit ripening or rotting;
      • sodium bicarbonate and citric acid in the presence of water;
      • vinegar and sodium bicarbonate mixed together;
      • an egg being poached or boiled;
      • bread becoming toast;
      • egg whites becoming meringue;
      • placing sherbet on your tongue;
      • metal objects rusting;
      • the metabolism of food.
    Chapter 8 – Forces
    • Explain what you understand by the term ‘force’.

      A ‘force’ is simply a push or a pull.

    • What do you understand by the terms:

      • air resistance;
      • friction;
      • upthrust?

      Examples of everyday forces:

      • Air resistance is a force that involves air and any object moving through it in any direction, for example parachutes dropping to the ground or a ball kicked into the air.
      • Friction is a force between two solid objects moving against each other, for example between the tyres of a car or bicycle and the road or between hands when they are rubbed together.
      • Upthrust is a force that pushes upwards on an object that is placed in water. It makes an object in water feel lighter.
    • Explain the forces involved in moving a rowing boat through water.

      The forces that are involved in moving a rowing boat through water are:

      • the pull backwards on the oars by the rower;
      • the push against the water by the oars;
      • the resulting forward push of the boat through the water;
      • the resulting drag of the boat through the water;
      • the upward push of the water on the boat (upthrust);
      • the weight of the boat acting downwards.
    • Where might you find pulleys in use in everyday life?

      Pulleys are in use in everyday life in cranes, pile drivers and in simple lift systems.

    • Why is it important to set the teaching of ideas about scientific and technological applications in a real-life context?

      On some occasions it is important to set the teaching of ideas about scientific and technological applications in a real-life context as this may help as a scaffold for new learning to be built upon. Sometimes the best context can be the science itself of an investigation. It does not always have to be an imagined context.

    • Think about your class or a class known to you and about everyday events and routines that regularly involve forces to move things or to keep them still. How could you reinforce some of the scientific ideas met within this chapter in your general teaching?

      There are opportunities to reinforce the ideas of forces in everyday events and routines such as:

      • opening and closing doors and cupboards;
      • making a tricycle, bicycle or skateboard start or stop;
      • placing a book on a table.
    • How could you plan to stretch your more able pupils in their learning about forces and their effects?

      Planning to extend learning for more able pupils is a constant challenge. One way you could do this is to encourage your children to ask their own questions about forces and their effects and to use their questions as starting points for further work on the topic.

    Chapter 9 – Earth, Space and Rocks
    • List the eight planets starting with the closest to the Sun?

      The eight planets starting with the closest to the Sun are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

    • Why is it important for children to appreciate the scale of the planets in relation to the Sun?

      It is important for children to appreciate the scale of the planets in relation to the Sun as this will help them to understand how the planets move due to the gravitational fields between the planets and the Sun.

    • What are the different phases of the Moon and what happens to make them occur?

      The different phases of the Moon are:

      • first quarter;
      • waxing crescent;
      • new moon;
      • waning crescent;
      • third quarter;
      • waning gibbous;
      • full moon;
      • waxing gibbous.

      The phases of the Moon occur because of the Moon's cyclical orbit around the Earth and the Earth and Moon's orbit around the Sun. At the different stages different amounts of light are reflected off the Moon's surface.

    • How do we get the four different seasons?

      The explanation for the change in the seasons relates to the fact that the Earth tilts on its axis. As the Earth orbits the Sun, its tilted axis always points in the same direction. Over the course of the year different parts of the Earth's surface come into direct contact with the Sun's rays. At times it is the North Pole that tilts to face the Sun and this tilt reaches its height during June and at other times it is the South Pole's turn to tilt toward the Sun, normally reaching its height around December.

    • What are the different types of rocks and how are they formed?

      There are three distinct groups of rocks: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic. Igneous rocks are created when molten rock cools and solidifies. Sedimentary rocks are formed from fragments of rock that have been broken away from bigger rocks by the action of rain or wind and are deposited as sediment on the bottom of rivers, lakes and seas. Over time, the sediment becomes a sedimentary rock. Metamorphic rocks are formed when igneous and sedimentary rocks are subjected to great pressure and intense heat and come together to form a new metamorphic (changed) rock.

    Chapter 10 – Light, Sound and Electricity
    • What is light?

      Light is a form of energy. The light we can see is called visible light which forms only part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

    • How does light travel?

      Light travels in straight lines.

    • How do we see?

      Light rays bounce off an object and enter the eye via the pupil. This light gets bent slightly. The bent light rays meet and focus upon the retina. Our eye converts the light into millions upon millions of impulses that are sent to different parts of the brain via the nerves. The brain co-ordinates the messages from the impulses to provide the images that we see.

    • What is sound?

      Sounds are made by objects vibrating.

    • How does sound travel?

      Sounds travel in waves. Constant sounds are the result of an object vibrating back and forth. When it moves it nudges the air around it. When the object moves forwards it squashes and compacts the air in front of it. When it moves backwards it creates space for the air to spread out. This movement creates a wave which moves in a column fashion towards the ear.

    • What is electricity?

      Electricity is a flowing energy that is formed of positively or negatively charged particles.

    • How do circuits work?

      There are two key types of circuits: series and parallel. When a current passes through components in a series circuit, it experiences resistance to its flow. The greater the number of components added the greater the resistance experienced. Should one of the components break in a series circuit all of the components will stop working. Parallel circuits create multiple pathways for the current to travel, reducing the resistance experienced.

    • What is a battery?

      Batteries consist of two or more cells placed together in a circuit.

    Guest G. (2003) Alternative frameworks and misconceptions in primary science. Available at: (accessed 19/6/14).
    Peacock G., Sharp J., Johnsey R., and Wright D. (2009) Achieving QTS in primary science, 4th edition. Exeter: Learning Matters.
    Ward H., Roden J., Hewlett C., and Foreman J. (2005) Teaching science in the primary classroom: A practical guide. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.
    Ward H., Roden J., Hewlett C., and Foreman J. (2008) Teaching science in the primary classroom: A practical guide. 2nd edition. London: SAGE.

    Appendix 2: Science Programmes of Study: Key Stages 1 and 2: National Curriculum in England: September 2013

    Purpose of Study

    A high-quality science education provides the foundations for understanding the world through the specific disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics. Science has changed our lives and is vital to the world's future prosperity, and all pupils should be taught essential aspects of the knowledge, methods, processes and uses of science. Through building up a body of key foundational knowledge and concepts, pupils should be encouraged to recognise the power of rational explanation and develop a sense of excitement and curiosity about natural phenomena. They should be encouraged to understand how science can be used to explain what is occurring, predict how things will behave, and analyse causes.


    The national curriculum for science aims to ensure that 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 different types of science enquiries that help them to answer scientific questions about the world around them
    • are equipped with the scientific knowledge required to understand the uses and implications of science, today and for the future.
    Scientific Knowledge and Conceptual Understanding

    The programmes of study describe a sequence of knowledge and concepts. While it is important that pupils make progress, it is also vitally important that they develop secure understanding of each key block of knowledge and concepts in order to progress to the next stage. Insecure, superficial understanding will not allow genuine progression: pupils may struggle at key points of transition (such as between primary and secondary school), build up serious misconceptions, and/or have significant difficulties in understanding higher-order content.

    Pupils should be able to describe associated processes and key characteristics in common language, but they should also be familiar with, and use, technical terminology accurately and precisely. They should build up an extended specialist vocabulary. They should also apply their mathematical knowledge to their understanding of science, including collecting, presenting and analysing data. The social and economic implications of science are important but, generally, they are taught most appropriately within the wider school curriculum: teachers will wish to use different contexts to maximise their pupils’ engagement with and motivation to study science.

    The Nature, Processes and Methods of Science

    ‘Working scientifically’ specifies the understanding of the nature, processes and methods of science for each year group. It should not be taught as a separate strand. The notes and guidance give examples of how ‘working scientifically’ might be embedded within the content of biology, chemistry and physics, focusing on the key features of scientific enquiry, so that pupils learn to use a variety of approaches to answer relevant scientific questions. These types of scientific enquiry should include: observing over time; pattern seeking; identifying, classifying and grouping; comparative and fair testing (controlled investigations); and researching using secondary sources. Pupils should seek answers to questions through collecting, analysing and presenting data. ‘Working scientifically’ will be developed further at key stages 3 and 4, once pupils have built up sufficient understanding of science to engage meaningfully in more sophisticated discussion of experimental design and control.

    Spoken Language

    The national curriculum for science reflects the importance of spoken language in pupils’ development across the whole curriculum – cognitively, socially and linguistically. The quality and variety of language that pupils hear and speak are key factors in developing their scientific vocabulary and articulating scientific concepts clearly and precisely. They must be assisted in making their thinking clear, both to themselves and others, and teachers should ensure that pupils build secure foundations by using discussion to probe and remedy their misconceptions.

    School Curriculum

    The programmes of study for science are set out year-by-year for key stages 1 and 2. Schools are, however, only required to teach the relevant programme of study by the end of the key stage. Within each key stage, schools therefore have the flexibility to introduce content earlier or later than set out in the programme of study. In addition, schools can introduce key stage content during an earlier key stage if appropriate. All schools are also required to set out their school curriculum for science on a year-by-year basis and make this information available online.

    Attainment Targets

    By the end of each key stage, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study.

    Schools are not required by law to teach the content indicated as being ‘non-statutory’.

    Key Stage 1

    The principal focus of science teaching in key stage 1 is to enable pupils to experience and observe phenomena, looking more closely at the natural and humanly-constructed world around them. They should be encouraged to be curious and ask questions about what they notice. They should be helped to develop their understanding of scientific ideas by using different types of scientific enquiry to answer their own questions, including observing changes over a period of time, noticing patterns, grouping and classifying things, carrying out simple comparative tests, and finding things out using secondary sources of information. They should begin to use simple scientific language to talk about what they have found out and communicate their ideas to a range of audiences in a variety of ways. Most of the learning about science should be done through the use of first-hand practical experiences, but there should also be some use of appropriate secondary sources, such as books, photographs and videos.

    ‘Working scientifically’ is described separately in the programme of study, but must always be taught through and clearly related to the teaching of substantive science content in the programme of study. Throughout the notes and guidance, examples show how scientific methods and skills might be linked to specific elements of the content.

    Pupils should read and spell scientific vocabulary at a level consistent with their increasing word-reading and spelling knowledge at key stage 1.

    Key Stage 1 Programme of Study – Years 1 and 2
    Working Scientifically
    Year 1 Programme of Study
    Animals, Including Humans
    Everyday Materials
    Seasonal Changes
    Year 2 Programme of Study
    Living Things and their Habitats
    Animals, Including Humans
    Uses of Everyday Materials
    Lower Key Stage 2 – Years 3 and 4

    The principal focus of science teaching in lower key stage 2 is to enable pupils to broaden their scientific view of the world around them. They should do this through exploring, talking about, testing and developing ideas about everyday phenomena and the relationships between living things and familiar environments, and by beginning to develop their ideas about functions, relationships and interactions. They should ask their own questions about what they observe and make some decisions about which types of scientific enquiry are likely to be the best ways of answering them, including observing changes over time, noticing patterns, grouping and classifying things, carrying out simple comparative and fair tests and finding things out using secondary sources of information. They should draw simple conclusions and use some scientific language, first, to talk about and, later, to write about what they have found out.

    ‘Working scientifically’ is described separately at the beginning of the programme of study, but must always be taught through and clearly related to substantive science content in the programme of study. Throughout the notes and guidance, examples show how scientific methods and skills might be linked to specific elements of the content.

    Pupils should read and spell scientific vocabulary correctly and with confidence, using their growing word-reading and spelling knowledge.

    Lower Key Stage 2 Programme of Study
    Working Scientifically
    Year 3 Programme of Study
    Animals, Including Humans
    Forces and Magnets
    Year 4 Programme of Study
    Living Things and their Habitats
    Animals, Including Humans
    States of Matter
    Upper Key Stage 2 – Years 5 and 6

    The principal focus of science teaching in upper key stage 2 is to enable pupils to develop a deeper understanding of a wide range of scientific ideas. They should do this through exploring and talking about their ideas; asking their own questions about scientific phenomena; and analysing functions, relationships and interactions more systematically. At upper key stage 2, they should encounter more abstract ideas and begin to recognise how these ideas help them to understand and predict how the world operates. They should also begin to recognise that scientific ideas change and develop over time. They should select the most appropriate ways to answer science questions using different types of scientific enquiry, including observing changes over different periods of time, noticing patterns, grouping and classifying things, carrying out comparative and fair tests and finding things out using a wide range of secondary sources of information. Pupils should draw conclusions based on their data and observations, use evidence to justify their ideas, and use their scientific knowledge and understanding to explain their findings.

    ‘Working and thinking scientifically’ is described separately at the beginning of the programme of study, but must always be taught through and clearly related to substantive science content in the programme of study. Throughout the notes and guidance, examples show how scientific methods and skills might be linked to specific elements of the content.

    Pupils should read, spell and pronounce scientific vocabulary correctly.

    Upper Key Stage 2 Programme of Study
    Working Scientifically
    Year 5 Programme of Study
    Living Things and their Habitats
    Animals, Including Humans
    Properties and Changes of Materials
    Earth and Space
    Year 6 Programme of Study
    Living Things and their Habitats
    Animals Including Humans
    Evolution and Inheritance

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