Moving smoothly from primary to secondary science

Moving from primary school to secondary school is a very exciting but sometimes daunting experience for many students. When the transition from Year 6 to Year 7 is right, we see students get it right; we see students in Year 7 who are engaged, interested and enthusiastic about science; students who are keen to learn and at the same time continue to make progress in the subject.

STEM Learning transition article

However, steps need to be taken to ensure that after the enthusiasm wears off, students don’t feel let down or that their academic needs are not met. For some students, a lack of challenge in lessons coupled with being re-taught content covered at key stage 2 can lead to a drop in attainment.

Continued improved communication between primary science coordinators and secondary science leaders is the key to overcoming many of the challenges and issues surrounding transition, including those associated with curriculum and assessment.

Big changes in pedagogy during transition can also be a barrier to learning until students settle into the new system. Primary science is taught in a classroom often using a child-centred, skills-based approach, whilst in secondary schools there is often more emphasis on content and the learning of facts. Equally the two assessment systems can be quite different.

By making time to work with your primary colleagues, you will start to understand what primary science looks like and what we can really expect students to do and understand in science when they arrive in Year 7.

The Improving Science Together project showed that as a result of joint planning and the implementation of a bridging unit, there was an increase in secondary teachers’ understanding of the range of the primary science curriculum, and the level of attainment in scientific enquiry.

During the project, the transfer of assessment data from primary to secondary staff was used to inform planning, and participating students continued to make progress during Year 7. Why not have a go at doing something similar for your own students? The Polar Explorer Y6–Y7 Transition Project is a good place to start, as it provides a framework and resources to take you through the transition process… on the way you will learn more about how science is taught in your local primary schools.

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