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Ten ways to drive science in primary schools

Published: Sep 2, 2019 5 min read

Rachel Jackson

Primary Specialist

National STEM Learning Centre


How do you support science teaching and learning in your primary school? Whether you are a new science leader or a seasoned hand, below are ten tips to ensure that all of your children receive a first-class science education.

 1. Audit

Audit your school to see how much science is being done. Include questions such as:

  • How many hours a week are spent on science?
  • How much is of this is practical science?
  • What resources do teachers need to run effective practical sessions? Organise these into topic areas.
  • Try and find out what kind of support teachers and teaching assistants need. Is it subject knowledge? Developing key skills? Working scientifically? Assessment?
  • Are there other opportunities for science learning? Is there a STEM Club? Established school trips? Science theatre groups? Can parents come in to speak with children?


2. Governors

Inclusion of governors and school leaders will help ensure that science is at the forefront of your school development plan. This framework supports discussions between governors and school leaders and can also be used with other colleagues.


3. Staff training

Your audit should help to identify the development needs of individual teachers, enabling you to find appropriate CPD for them and get it booked in early! Most state-funded schools and colleges will be eligible for a bursary to help fund science, maths, computing and STEM courses. There is also a selection of free online courses.

High-quality staff development at little cost to the school should be an attractive proposition for headteachers. From learning about types of enquiry as a Newly Qualified Teacher to developing experienced science leaders, there is something for every stage of a teacher’s career. You can search for CPD here.  


4. Equipment

Knowing what equipment you have and what is required to support practical work is key to the delivery of effective science lessons. It will also help to pre-empt those last-minute trips to supermarkets to pick up consumable items. This guidance details equipment that is required at primary to do this, providing a great starting point for science subject leaders.

Remember that this can be a gradual process. Build up a box of resources for different topics/year groups, label them and put in a contents page. Encourage teachers to put back all equipment at the end of a session. A signing out sheet is useful, as there’s nothing worse than running around a school looking for thermometers that have gone astray and are hidden in the back of a colleague’s classroom!


5. Resources

There is a lot of support out there for teachers, in terms of free resources and friendly advice. The primary science resource page offers free resources for all year groups and offers hints and tips for running activities in class. There are a whole host of ideas, not only for science, but for teaching science through children’s stories and cross-curricular topics. Stuck for a lesson linked to Goodnight Mr Tom? Try this list of resources.


6. Primary science initiatives

Keep your eye out for competitions, challenges and projects that your school could get involved with. You may find your school joining the Great Science Share, naming an Exoplanet, or exploring resources from a national project such as the Polar Explorer Programme.


7. Space as a context

Tim Peake and his mission to the International Space Station inspired children across the UK and space continues to excite children and provide a great context for science lessons. With the 50th anniversary of the first Lunar Landing this year and ESA’s ExoMars lander, Rosalind Franklin, due land on the red planet in 2020, then dip your toe in the wonderful out-of-this-world topic of space. To start you off, we have created a ready-made space week with ideas for assemblies, activities and lessons for all ages.


8. STEM Ambassadors

Have you thought about inviting a STEM Ambassador into your classroom to share their experiences? Including apprentices, architects and farmers, STEM Ambassadors use STEM skills as part of their every-day lives and volunteer their time to inspire young people. A great idea for enrichment during a science week, some may even be able to run a short activity with your class.


9. Recognition

Once you’ve set out your priorities, you could well find that the action plan you’ve put in place could go some way towards a formal award or accreditation. It could also be a way of ensuring that science keeps a high profile within the school. Popular awards include the Space Education Quality Mark and the Primary Science Quality Mark.


10. Get reading!

Did you know that STEM Learning produces a termly primary magazine, including ideas for lessons from teachers and upcoming CPD? These are sent to every state-funded school in England, so go and ask your headteacher for it and put it in the staffroom. You never know, there may be a minute or two in between lunch and marking when you can have a quick read!


If you are looking for advice on leading science in your school, or even about finding the perfect resource for a lesson, then post a question in our primary community group or tweet us @STEMLearningUK.