Does anybody use Empiribox science?  If so, what's good and what's not so good?  My school is thinking of buying into it so thought I'd put out a few feelers.  Thank-you



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Liz Lawrence

I would advise looking very carefully and asking your self some questions (which I would ask of any scheme of work)

Does its underlying philosophy fit with your school vision and policy for the teaching of primary science?

How cost effective is it (in the case of Empiribox, compared with resourcing the school with practical equipment that you can keep)?

Will teachers be able to use it confidently and safely - and how much training will they need to do so,  which also has cost implications?

How does it deliver the key objectives of the national curriculum and how well does it do that? Is the required content for each key stage covered in enough depth by the end of the key stage? How much of what is provided is enhancement/extension? Is this additional or at the expense of the core provision?

How does it ensure progression through the curriculum so that children build on existing knowledge, understanding and skills, are learning age-appropriate content and are developing their capabilities in working scientifically? Do they meet ideas in a sequence which will allow them to build their understanding across the key stage without repetition or gaps? 

How well does it support child-led enquiry?

What opportunities does it provide for ongoing assessment against NC objectives?



S Howard

Hi Liz,

can I probe your answer a bit more as I know you are very well versed in what would count for quality Orimary science practice and pedagogy. If money was no object would you buy this resource? I suppose I'm seeking your personal view on this product ( knowing how many products are out there!) BW

Liz Lawrence

Personally - absolutely not. What I have seen of it is completely at odds with what I believe about primary pedagogy and I also don't think it is cost effective.

S Howard

I totally agree.Liz.

Not just the money but why would any decent primary science coordinator not want to build up their own school resources and create a sustainable  staff development prog  and create school special scheme of work that draws in best practice ( rather than one off wow that sit better in the early stages of secondary or outreach visits to science museum)


We subscribed to Empiribox as a cluster of schools (or to be fair, most of our 7 schools did... two of the smaller ones couldn't afford the hefty annual charge)

Feedback is that children and staff love the scheme - it includes training on a termly basis and has (in our case)  enhanced the scientific vocabulary and discussion that is undertaken throughout the school.

As Liz notes though, there are drawbacks and trade offs. The charge is pretty large and at the end of a subscription period you have nothing left* as you are just hiring the equipment for use (albeit that every child has their own set of equipment) [*apart from the memory of the system and any progress that the children have already made]

Training is reported as being really good as well (although this is using up all of their allocated Inset days and doesn't appear to attract a discount from Empiribox when several schools team together). This gets over any 'lack of knowledge' issues within staff teams.

Being an old dinosaur I still hanker for the non-subscription approach to curricular innovation where a school isn't  adding more and more 'subscriptions' to its financial responsibility until eventually you have to decide which service isn't going to be funded in the next year.

S Howard

I found your honest view on this product most useful.

I just want to point out that there is NO need for costly equipment in primary science and hiring g stuff seems odd when special kit could be borrowed freely from 'feeder' Secondary schools ( they are hankering for more closer working relationships with primary in order to understand the experiences their Y7 pupils have had!). And even your nearest ITE university provider will lend you kit if you take their students on placements!

As for good CPD then look no further than the Association for  Science Education ( ASE) as that is uptodate high quality - without an axe to grind beyond good primary and EY science experiences for teachers and pupils! 

ASE also is a good point of contact for free support from other organisations.

my big concern with this resource is its 'financial commitment' with nothing at the end.

School budgets are tight and going to be worse - this means the first thing to be cut will be financial outlay like this resource - and there will be nothing left behind - staff previously trained within the subscription will have moved on to pastures new and the cupboards are bare!

spend the money on a school membership to ASE and create a scheme of work, purchase  resources for your school (and keep a budget for consumables). Take advantage of ASE excellent good value CPD including free Teach Meets. Use ASE to make contacts with ambassadors and free resources etc 

Hope this helps . BW Sally 


Empiribox does provide equipment like a van der graaf generator for each child when studying energy - unlikley that even the most well resourced secondary school would do this for their feeder primaries so the subscription does provide a "wow" factor very easily. Is it worth it ? Well I was one of those schools that couldn't justify the cost implications (certainly not as an annual charge) and felt that  a good programme of study (such as the Kent scheme) pepped up by ASE , BBC resources and staff ingenuity was 'good enough'. Had I been looking at one of those budgets  which attracts the "Get rid of your spare cash" March emails, maybe I would have taken a punt!

S Howard

Lol - so basically no! Leave the Vandergraph to secondary school and concentrate on more effective enquiry based science in and around primary schools. 

I agree - don't waste the money 

Liz Lawrence

My point exactly about primary pedagogy and progression. There is no part of the primary curriculum which requires use of a van der graaf generator. Surely we have enough hands-on science to teach in primary without borrowing all the fun bits from secondary to no clear purpose. It's like that moment when you, as a KS2 teacher, realise that the Y2 teacher hasn't read the scheme of work and has done all of your best practical activities for the wow factor without really teaching any of the science concepts. The kids will all say they have done it and switch off, but they didn't actually get it.

S Howard

I've posted a comment to the two other replies and only just realised I should have posted them here ! Sorry :-( hope you can find my view on this resource 

S Howard

I think the comments from these well informed people state exactly how I feel about this exopemsuve box of 'wow' - not worth it and not what is actually best practice in primary and early years.



Hi Dawn, sorry I'm late to this discussion. We subscribe to Empiribox for Key Stage 2, in a one form entry school. These are my observations.

  • CPD is outstanding, delivered by an expert science specialist. Teachers, support staff and (in our case) governors have the opportunity to scrutinise plans and take part in experiments that the children will carry out as part of each unit. This takes place at the beginning of every term, building up the bank of expertise in your school
  • Resources are delivered at the begining of every term, in boxes marked up for each lesson. As stated in an earlier comments, we effectively hire them for a term. As teachers and governors in our school have commented, this gives primary school children the opportunity to access scientific resources that they would not usually see until Key Stage 3. In addition, the training sessions make it accessible for primary teachers like me to use speciialist equipment with confidence and understanding! As one of our governors (with a science background) commented, 'You could never have done that from a set of instructions.' 
  • The planning is tailored to the new national curriculum, and clearly differentiates activities for more able children. An example would be during our chemical change unit. During practical activities, children explored the properties of hydrogel (the white balls that soak up the water in nappies), and were challenged to think of how else they could be used. Flood defences was an interesting example! Another class, who had written explanation texts on the causes of The Titanic disaster, compared an experiment on 'reversible change' with new evidence (C4 documentary over Christmas) with their previous findings. 

I can't recommend this company enough, and would emphasise that my experience from their schemes of work is that the emphasis is firmly on learning, not 'wow!' Barriers to teaching great science lessons in primary school seem to be (and I reference Ofsted, Kings College and Wellcome Trust reports) CPD of non science specialist teachers and lack of resources. I feel we excell in both. Hope this helps!