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Pauline Hoyle, associate director, Myscience – National Science Learning Centre and National STEM Centre, writes:
Are you gearing up for the implementation of the new National Curriculum in September 2014? Have you read the introduction to the new National Curriculum or have you just jumped to the “what to teach bit”?
When I look at the introduction to the curriculum, I get really excited that pupils are going to have the opportunity to experience the awe and wonder of science and learn about the things that really matter in science. Things such as Key Stage 1 pupils asking questions about what they notice and Key Stage 2 pupils making decisions about which types of scientific enquiry are likely to be the best ways of answering their questions. It's not just primary, it goes right through to Key Stage 3 pupils seeing the connections between biology, chemistry and physics and becoming aware of some of the big ideas underpinning scientific knowledge and understanding.
I’ve spoken to lots of colleagues from across England who are starting to plan their curriculum revisions for September. The first thing they seem to worry about is how to “cover” all the content that is mentioned for each year group in the curriculum, particularly in Years 1-6. However, it’s worth remembering that it is up to teachers to ‘plan for progression’ in pupils’ learning throughout their curriculum experience.
There are lots of materials around to support teachers in developing their curriculum offer and approaches, including resource lists on the National STEM Centre eLibrary, which have been approved by the National Curriculum Implementation Expert Group, and linked community groups where you can ask fellow colleagues and experts on advice for what you're planning to do with pupils.
It’s important to remember that if pupils have already developed a good understanding of the concepts and processes laid out for their year group or key stage, then you can provide them with more depth and enriched curriculum experiences. By doing this, pupils will learn to apply their learning across a range of unfamiliar contexts, which will help embed their learning and build the necessary depth to enable them to develop a higher level of understanding. If, however, pupils need more time to develop certain concepts or processes, teachers can make the decision to plan for the appropriate rate of progression in pupils’ learning so that they really understand the basic key concepts and big ideas in science, rather than trying to cram in lots more stuff.
It is more important that pupils spend time asking their own questions, working scientifically to answer them, use a variety of relevant and exciting contexts so they transfer to the next stage in education with a good level of understanding of the key scientific concepts and ideas.
Great blog! Yes we agree lots of opportunities within the new science curriculum. If you are looking for ideas of ways to include a variety of exciting real-life contexts, we've just produced a free guide for science teachers called Global learning in science. We hope it's a useful guide aligning the new curriculum with opportunities for pupils to work scientifically in a range of real life contexts.practicalaction.org/globallearninginscience