The new national curriculum will begin to be implemented in September 2014. Ahead of the change, ASE’s Science Leaders’ Hub editor Helen Harden has put together this short guide to the key changes in the curriculum and the consequent implications of these changes for science leaders, along with some resources to help lead the transition.


The Key Stage 3 Programme Of Study has already been confirmed, while the Programme of Study for Key Stage 4 is still under consultation.


New content includes:

  • skeletal and muscular systems
  • concept of a pure substance
  • properties of ceramics, polymers and composites
  • efficacy of recycling
  • use of ultra-sound for cleaning and physiotherapy

New additions to the curriculum will require preparation of new teaching materials, which in turn may require resourcing with samples or visual aids.

Content moved down from KS4 includes:

  • the role of diffusion in the movement of materials in and between cells
  • the role of leaf stomata in gas exchange
  • cellular respiration (aerobic and anaerobic)
  • a simple model of chromosomes, genes and DNA in heredity including the part played by Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Franklin in the development of the DNA model
  • use of ray models to explain imaging in mirrors, refraction and action of convex lenses (and more...)
  • resistance as the ratio of potential difference to current (and other quantitative relationships)

Science leaders will need to consider who in their department would currently feel confident teaching this material and what CPD could support others. They will also need to plan how to make this material accessible to students and in particular in which year group more challenging content will be introduced.

There are raised expectations of chemical literacy and maths:

  • Understanding of chemistry:
    • representing chemical reactions using formulae and equations
  • Mathematical understanding
    • use and derive simple equations and carry out appropriate calculations
    • undertake basic data analysis including simple statistical techniques

Hidden within the new programme of study are a few bullet points that have big implications for curriculum planning. Each requires layers of understanding and so cannot be taught in one discrete chunk. Both chemical literacy, in terms of fluent use of formulae and equations and mathematical understanding, including the confident manipulation of equations and use of statistical techniques, need to be taught and reinforced in contexts throughout KS3. A carefully-planned progression will help to ensure that students develop their use and understanding of these concepts to reach the raised expectations and prepare for the new KS4.

Changes to investigative work includes:

  • carry out the ‘most appropriate’ type of investigation (moving away from only ‘fair tests’)
  • use appropriate techniques , apparatus and materials during fieldwork
  • apply sampling techniques

It is the ‘Working Scientifically’ section of the new curriculum that will need the most planning to ensure that it is covered via the subject content and that students have sufficient opportunities to progress. It will also, potentially, need the most resourcing. 

Useful Resources


ASE’s Science Leaders’ Hub

This new area of the ASE website is designed to support Science Leaders. It combines material shared by and freely accessible to ASE members with a purchasable e- publication the ‘Science Leaders’ Survival Guide’ (at a significant discount to ASE members).


Practical science benchmarks

Produced by SCORE, this report lists the equipment, consumables, access to outside space, laboratory facilities and technician staffing needed to adequately fulfil the national curriculum in England.


National Curriculum 2014 TES Community Group

Visit the Department for Education's group on TES Connect for blogs, videos and teaching ideas for the new science curriculum.


Science resources from the Association for Science Education

Key timeline for secondary science


While the current Year 8 must complete the new KS3 specification in Year 9 they will sit the existing GCSE science specifications. In Science, it is the current Year 7 (NOT the current Year 8, as in English and maths) that will sit the new Science GCSEs.


Current Year Groups






Year 7

Current KS3 science disapplied





Year 8

Current KS3 science disapplied

New KS3 science




Year 9

Current KS3 science disapplied

New KS3 science

New KS3 science



Year 10

Current GCSE science

Current GCSE science

Current GCSE science

New GCSE science


Year 11

Current GCSE science

Current GCSE science

Current GCSE science

Current GCSE science

New GCSE science


You can follow Helen on Twitter @hecharden