At Oaklands Junior School, we recognise the importance of Science in all aspects of daily life. Our lessons are taught in conjunction with the National Curriculum with the prioritisation of cross-curricular links and hands on learning.
By the end of Year 6, we would ensure that our pupils have acquired knowledge across a range of topics and strands of Science. They should be able to use scientific vocabulary to articulate their knowledge and explain their thinking. We would expect our pupils to use their knowledge and understanding to recognise patterns, hypothesise and make sensible predictions. Finally, pupils should be able to apply their knowledge to independently designing and conducting experiments to extend their thinking further. The children should be able to draw out conclusions from these investigations, evaluate the results and suggest how the findings are useful to daily life and the future. Coinciding with our Thinking School and Oaklands’ Mindset approach, we would aim for our pupils to have developed inquisitive minds in order for them to continue their enjoyment in the learning of Science.
At Oaklands Junior School, our Science curriculum closely follows the National curriculum whilst aiming to create an engaging and rich learning experience. This is done through the use of cross-curricular links where possible. These meaningful links help to broaden and solidify understanding of topics and promote an immersive and holistic learning environment. For example, Year 6 make circuits with switches for their Design and Technology topic on Fairground rides, Year 5 combine their Living Things topic with their Rainforest unit of work, Year 4 link their Iron Man Design and Technology topic with electricity and creating circuits and Year 3 use their knowledge of rocks to create Stone Age cave art.
Science is also a basis for our outdoor learning activities. At Oaklands Junior School we are lucky to have a diverse range of environments including a pond and woodland area.
Science is taught by the class teacher on a weekly basis, covering the range of topics specific to that year group set out by the National curriculum. Each year group has five topics to cover which span over a half-term. Our three key concepts of Science implement the basis of our planning with an aim of embedding experimental work more regularly in to all of the topics.
The three main strands of Science are knowledge, understanding and experimenting We use these key concepts as a sequence to frame our planning.
Knowledge based learning at Oaklands Junior School is one of our strengths. We use a wealth of resources including Tig-Tag to ensure good engagement within the topics and to provide a range of stimulus. When teaching a topic, the children are exposed to the correct Scientific vocabulary and are encouraged to use this both orally and in written word. At Oaklands Junior School, we understand that having a secure knowledge base is a fundamental building block to the other two stands of Science.
Once the children have a secure knowledge base of the topic, the next step that they are given is to explain and describe what they see, make comparisons and notice patterns. They would also be expected to justify their thinking using the correct Scientific vocabulary, which ties in with our Oaklands’ Mindset and Thinking School ethos.
This concept is particularly enjoyed by the children, who engage well in investigations. A planning template, linked with our Thinking Schools ethos, has been created to give a clear sequence to experiments. In lower Key Stage two, modelling and scaffolding are used to support learning whereas in upper school, more of an independent approach is taken. Following the Covid lockdowns, it has been observed that, although the children have maintained knowledge and understanding, their ability to carry out effective investigations has diminished. When conducting investigations, the children are usually provided with guided steps of how to meet the aim. However, as they become more confident, they are encouraged to design experiments more independently, focussing on ensuring that the tests are carried out as fairly and accurately as possible. In every year group, the children use their knowledge and understanding to make accurate predictions and apply that to their investigation. Once the results have been collected, the children are able to draw conclusions and evaluate the effectiveness and findings of the experiment.
We assess our children within these three strands. Knowledge and understanding can be assessed through verbal contributions and class work. We also use Headstart end of topic tests, which are useful in ascertaining how much the children have retained throughout the topic and which areas are their strengths. However, we recognise that formal assessments are not the only way to assess children, particularly in Science. We are now looking at ways to develop active assessments in Scientific enquiries to make sure we have a true reflection of the children’s capabilities.
Celebrating Science at our school
In addition to our weekly Science lessons, we look to engage the children’s interest in Science by hosting annual Science weeks, where the children participate in a range of Science activities every day. We invite members of our community to give inspirational talks about how Science is applied in their jobs and the vast array of career opportunities within this field. We also have themed days, opportunities to enter STEM competitions and attend educational visits with Science themes.
Examples of events are: Winchester Big Bang, Space Dome, Wellington Spectacular and STEM fairs at a variety of venues.
If participation at these events is limited we prioritise PPG and HA children to help give them the opportunities science can give them.
Indirectly science is seen in other subjects too such as in Design and Technology through cooking. Where links can be applied and made the language of science is used to help explain processes.
At the end of Year 6 will have a level of competency in the following concepts
- Gained knowledge across a range topic (five per year) and across the different strands of science.
- Be able to recognise and start to understand complex processes such as evolution and inheritance.
- Be able to use the correct scientific vocabulary to describe processes and label scientific diagrams correctly eg. parts of the circulatory system.
- The children can describe and explain how different processes work using the correct terminology.
- They can classify items based on its’ characteristics and justify their reasoning.
- They can find patterns and makes associations based on their prior knowledge.
- They can conduct independent experiments to answer questions. Draw conclusions and include an evaluation using the thinking tool ‘Think, commit, justify and reflect’
- They can apply their scientific knowledge in experimental process and use as evidence to justify ideas.
- The use a range of scientific vocabulary with correct spelling and pronunciation.
- Be competent at taking measurements using a range of scientific equipment. Understand the need to repeat readings when appropriate.
- They understand fair testing and the need to repeat experiments as well as the effect of changing variables.
At Oaklands Junior School we understand that children with Special Educational Needs need additional support to be able to access and achieve in science. Proformas, modelled examples and exemplars as well scientific vocabulary are provided for these children to enable them to experience science in its entirety and to help them continue to make progress within their stage of learning. The expectation for recording their work will vary depending on their learning needs and ‘scribes, differentiated work and pictorial forms are available where applicable.
The impact of our implementation is currently monitored through formative assessments per topic using the Headstart topic tests. The focus is upon knowledge and understanding and not experimenting and this is an area that I wish to address this year to ensure that we have a balance between the three concepts outlined in the intent.
Other ways in which the impact is currently monitored is through learning walks by the subject leader, lesson observations and children’s work and planning scrutiny.
In the past there was a strong cluster network within science leaders, and this is something that we are keen to re-establish.
Active assessment will be re-introduced to the class teachers as a means to teacher assess the children’s investigation skills. This will include observations, key questioning and record keeping of what was said and seen. This summative assessment will be used alongside the formative Headstart tests to give a truer measure of the impact of our science teaching at the school.
See Appendix 1 for an example of how this may be recorded.
After each topic the children are set an end of topic test and the results are recorded. Using these scores from across the year and teacher assessment (using class work and discussions) an average grade is given. The individual topic assessments help identify areas of weakness.
Pupil voice – A target this year is to run a pupil forum to gain an understanding of the pupils’ attitudes towards science. A forms survey will also be completed to ascertain what the children like. Dislike about science and about their confidence and enjoyment within the subject.
As a direct result of the pandemic, we have found that the main consequence in science has been the reduced opportunities to carry out investigations. The impact of this is that we as a staff recognise the importance of planning in more investigative opportunities and that ‘stand-alone’ lessons that focus on the different strands of investigations may be needed to ensure that the children get to experience them. See Appendix 2 for an example of a resource for focusing on predictions.
Learning Walks and Observations (2020-21 walk by Hannah Noad)
The strengths identified from the learning walk were:
- Good science displays in Year 3 and 4.
- Children are introduced to new vocabulary- vocabulary included in investigation grids in year 4.
- Evidence of thinking skills as children designing own experiments and enquiries.
- Investigation grids used consistently
- Clear progression throughout year groups.
As a school, the staff confidence in science is good. In a recent staff meeting it was identified that experimenting/ investigation skills need more of a focus and that training and work on this will be planned in. Active assessment will be reviewed and implemented, and staff will be asked to use it as a means to assess science along with the Headstart topic tests once the training has been done.
Staff identified that some subjects lend themselves less to investigations and it was decided that ‘stand-alone’ investigations should be done to ensure that all children get continual opportunities to develop these skills.