Primary Science – How on Earth?

Let’s talk about science in primary schools.

There are times when I’m teaching my Year 7s and I stop and think, “God, what DID you learn in primary school?!”. Every time they have no idea how to draw a table, every time they astound me with some hideous misconception, and every time they draw the worst particle model of a liquid I’ve EVER seen, I think about the science education they apparently didn’t receive in primary school. It’s almost like just starting from scratch.

But, before you run and get the pitch forks and come after me, I usually only have those thoughts when I’m having a down day and it feels like every little thing is getting on my nerves. I think primary school teachers are amazing. There is no way in hell that I could be a primary teacher – the observation I did before starting my teacher training confirmed that to me. To build relationships with children that young and get them to engage with the world in a meaningful way is really quite an impressive feat. Not only that, but to be a master of all subjects (to a certain extent) is again someting I know I couldn’t do. I’ll stick with the grumpy teenagers in science.

Something that really put it all into perspective for me recently is reading one of the latest documents from Ofsted in which they were investigating the state of primary school science (document can be found here). It gave a pretty damning account about lack of coherence in a lot of schools, especially those that had chosen to focus on english and maths. The brief report stated that “science provision was weakest in these schools” and “inspectors … saw very little science content”. We’re currently in an education system that puts an enormous pressure on primary schools to get good english and maths results, but science is suffereing as a result. So is anybody really that surprised? Ofsted apparently are.

I guess one solution is to make more use of somebody that has a loose ‘KS2 Science Liaison’ TLR attached to their job. I’ve heard of these elusive liaison teachers, and I’m fairly certain our school has them in other subjects, but definitely not for science. The science ones in other schools that I do know of, I know that nothing really comes from it except for a couple of visits to the primary school every year. This could be such a hugely important role, building an intimate link with the feeder primary school to help them with the science curriculum. To me it seems like a no-brainer – using a science specialist to actively train and develop a non-science specialist. It’s not about patronising the primary school teacher, it’s not about down-playing their skills and abilities, it’s about taking a stark view of the standard of science education that they move into Year 7 with and trying to make it much better.

My question to you is, are you a KS2 Liaison – in any subject and not just science? What does the relationship with your feeder primary schools look like? How pro-active are you  with providing CPD (or are you allowed to be, maybe)? I’m really interested to know.


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