The study of science is critical in the delivery of our Academy mission statement; we strive to provide a whole-person education through which all are challenged to grow in wisdom, understanding, self-esteem and closeness to God.
At St Mary’s, science holds a special place in the wider curriculum as it is compulsory for all students up to GCSE level and it makes up a minimum of two of each students’ Key Stage 4 curriculum. We also offer the further study of science at Key Stage 5 offering a number of options.
At St Mary’s the three intended outcomes for students covering science are:
A student studying science at St Mary’s will have the opportunity to build on their previous learning and develop a knowledge and understanding of the substantive knowledge that underpins the study of biology, chemistry and physics. This builds on the topics first introduced in Key Stage 1 and 2, developed further by studying the full breadth of the National Curriculum at Key Stage 3 and going into greater depth at Key stage 4 and 5 in phenomenon such as: atoms, cells and where new life comes from.
To ensure students have a firm grasp of scientific concepts, the curriculum is sequenced in an appropriate order, carefully building on previously learned knowledge. The key scientific concepts have been mapped through the curriculum so that links between topics can be made and therefore schema can be built upon.
As well as substantive knowledge, students at St Mary’s develop an understanding of the declarative knowledge in science. They learn about how theories eventually become facts and how evidence can be gathered to support this. The study of how science works is mapped throughout our Key Stage 3 so that skills and understanding are developed. At Key Stage 4, students learn about the establishment of fact in examples, such as, how the current nuclear model of the atom has been established as scientific fact.
Good literacy skills are critical for the successful study of science at St Mary’s and so we have built the development of scientific literacy into our curriculum. We are committed to pre-teaching tier 3 vocabulary using the Freyer model. This is a simple model used to introduce new vocabulary so that students are able to access new vocabulary. Reading and understanding scientific text is different to reading text in other subjects. Students learn the SURE technique in Key Stage 3 lessons to enable to read and understand scientific text. SURE is an evidence informed technique to approaching the reading of a text to ensure that the intent and meaning of the text is clear.
The everyday experience of students out of school juxtaposed with the scientific explanation of phenomena at St Mary’s can give rise to many deep-rooted misconceptions in students. At St Mary’s we have considered the most common misconceptions while co-planning and co-constructing the schemes that we work with to ensure that misconceptions are challenged early. Through our DAFITAL process, we are able to regularly re-visit our schemes and develop our strategies. The science department at St Mary’s is also committed to developing our explanations when teaching more challenging concepts.
Practical skills are a large part of the science curriculum at St Mary’s and an important experience for all students to spend time learning in a lab. Students learn why experiment is important to science and how to undertake practical activities safely and with a particular purpose. Some practical activities are designed to give students the opportunity to develop their investigation skills and other practical activities are undertaken to demonstrate phenomenon and to give students the opportunity to experience classic science activities such as heart dissections, reaction of magnesium and oxygen or the Van de Graff generator. Unusually, not all science lessons are in the labs. We believe that going into a lab to complete an experiment is a peak in the science curriculum and the fact that students are not usually in the lab makes the experience more exciting and memorable for them.
As science is such a large proportion of the curriculum and has so many linked ideas it is critical that students are able to retain and use key terms throughout their study. To help them with this we have developed knowledge organisers for each topic and our home-learning tasks are often self-quizzing key terms from the relevant knowledge organiser. In class, we begin each lesson with a low stakes assessment.
The science curriculum will address social disadvantage by addressing gaps in students’ knowledge and skills. This is done by identifying gaps in knowledge through baseline assessment at the beginning of Year 7 and being responsive in the delivery of our curriculum. We assess students minute by minute in class, formatively through written tasks and tests. As a science department, after each assessment window, we use DAFITAL time to discuss any apparent gaps in knowledge and then how we can address them for whole cohorts, individual classes or individual students. As students have missed school time through COVID, these DAFITAL meetings become more important to identify problem areas.
Science is the perfect forum to develop cultural capacity in students. The science curriculum covers a broad range of ideas that have cross-curricular links. There are also numerous examples in the curriculum of how science has improved the quality of life in humans and, unfortunately, how it has done the opposite. Representation issues are rife in science and our curriculum hopes to challenge the idea that science is for ‘white men in white coats’. We aim to include in our schemes of learning opportunities to explore the impact of science on the wider world and to give credit to the women and people from ethnic minorities who have contributed to the science canon.
Science is an interesting and unusual subject. Coupled with the mission statement of the Academy we want to ensure that all students have the necessary skills, knowledge and understanding to lead a happy and fulfilled life and to make an excellent contribution to society, no matter how large or small.