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Changes to the primary science curriculum: when less really is more

Published: Apr 20, 2016 2 min read

STEM learning

Like many primary school teachers I dislike many aspects of the dreaded new curriculum. However, as a science enthusiast the changes to the primary science curriculum have been very positive for the staff and pupils at The Russell School, Richmond, Surrey.

I have been the Science Coordinator at my school for the last 9 years and during that time have seen many changes introduced by Government and our Local Authority. The introduction of a more condensed curriculum means that those of us that enjoy teaching and promoting science in primary schools are benefiting from less topics each year. Take the key stage 1 curriculum as an example. We now only have four topics across the whole year in our Year 1 and 2 classes. Fantastic news for us science enthusiasts! We can extend topics when children are really interested in them. Equally more exciting, our staff can teach physics based lessons in key stage 1 because we have the time, passion and knowledge to do it.

My class and I can now happily make conductive putty monsters, create rockets, make lave lamps because less really is more. The fact that electricity is only compulsory in Year 4 was sad news for all of the ‘electricians’ in key stage 1. With a little creativity, our key stage 1 pupils still get to use and enjoy circuits, simply because there is enough time in the school year to teach some aspects of electricity. 

The Wellcome Trust’s November 2014 report titled ‘Primary Science: Is It Missing Out?’ had many recommendations for reviving the subject of science within primary schools. The new science curriculum has enabled our school to address many of the report’s concerns. We have been able to cover the curriculum in much greater detail as there are fewer topics. In this academic term we have had numerous science visitors to our school; ranging from bee keepers to badger enthusiasts. In addition, we have had more time to invite STEM ambassadors into our school, which have provided wonderful role models to our pupils. 

Last night I received a very brief email from a parent in my class. It read, “Thank you for teaching so much science in Year 2. My son loves coming to school”. In short, the new National Curriculum may have its challenges, but for us science enthusiasts, less really is more. 

Jo Shobbrook
Science Coordinator, The Russell School