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Science in the National Curriculum 1989

This was the first National Curriculum for Science in England and Wales. One intention of the National Curriculum was that all students aged 5 to 16 learn science – that there should be ‘Science for All’ – and that this should include both the ‘methods of science’ and the acquisition of ‘knowledge and understanding’ of ‘facts and principles’. The science taught should be ‘broad and balanced’. 


The curriculum is structured around 17 Attainment Targets (AT) and each AT has ‘statements of attainment’ for each level, which are points that describe what a learner can do at that level. AT1 and AT17 ‘bookend’ the ATs with processes and nature of science (including evaluation of scientific evidence, history of scientific idea etc.)

*AT1: Exploration of science (knowledge and understanding of science communication and the application and implications of science)

*AT2: The variety of life

*AT3: Processes of life

*AT4: Genetics and evolution

*AT5: Human influences on the Earth

*AT6: Types and uses of materials

*AT7: Making new materials

*AT8: Explaining how materials behave

*AT9: Earth and atmosphere

*AT10: Forces

*AT11: Electricity and magnetism

*AT12: The scientific aspects of information technology including microelectronics

*AT13: Energy

*AT14: Sound and music

*AT15: Using light and electromagnetic radiation

*AT16: The Earth in space

*AT17: The nature of science

The Programme of Study is written as a few pages of “detailed provisions” for each Key Stage, corresponding to the ATs, and it was in this way that there was control over the amount of science content and the level to which it was expected to be taken:

*Key Stage One covers AT 1-6 and 9-16 between Levels 1 and 3

*Key Stage Two covers AT 1-6 and 9-16 between Levels 2 and 5

*Key Stage Three covers AT 1-17 between Levels 3 and 7

*Key Stage Four (Model A) covers AT 1-17 between Levels 4 and 10

*Key Stage Four (Model B) covers AT 1, 3-4, 6, 8-11, and 13-14 between Levels 4 and 10

Note that at Key Stage Four, two models were produced in terms of the time spent studying the subject as part of a school’s timetable - Model A (‘Double’ science) and Model B (‘Single’ science).

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