The overall aims of the science curriculum at John Masefield High School are:
- To develop scientific knowledge and understanding of biological systems and chemical and physical interactions
- To make and record real world observations and use these to make scientific predictions
- To understand the scientific method and use it to investigate with objectivity, precision, accuracy, and reliability
- To use knowledge of scientific methods to answer questions about the world and 21st century problems such as climate change
- To understand the implications of science for the future
In combination with these aims, we ensure that we fulfil the requirements for delivery of content of Science as stipulated by the National Curriculum by:
- Regularly carrying out reviews of the content in the National Curriculum against our learning schemes.
- Proactively updating schema where curriculum content has been found to be in deficit.
- For example in our most recent review (Summer Term 2019/20) the main area in deficit was delivery of content relating to geology and the rock cycle for Year 9 students.
- We then used this to inform our curriculum planning, ensuring that we at least delivered all of the content relating to topic covered in the National Curriculum.
As a thriving Science Faculty within an Academy we also feel we go beyond the requirements of the National Curriculum by:
- Ensuring a constant focus that all students have excellent and enjoyable learning.
- Curriculum planning that ensures support of literacy and numeracy skills of students, for example through delivery of regular comprehension tasks as part of our assessment strategy for KS3.
- Providing all of our students with ‘cultural capital’ which we encourage through the use of regular reading tasks built in to learning schemes. These focus on STEM careers, scientific newspaper articles and prominent scientists.
- Employing a ‘top-down’ approach to curriculum planning, firstly looking at the key knowledge we expect students to acquire at KS5 and using this to help plan our KS4 curriculum and then planning our KS3 curriculum.
- This has allowed us to go above the requirements of the National Curriculum, for example introducing learning of the immune system to KS3 which further supports students in preparation for KS4.
We feel that it is important to provide a high level of challenge for all students. Through doing this we achieve our ambition and vision that all students do well and thrive. We maintain this level of challenge by ensuring that:
- We provide students with the analytical skills to apply knowledge to answer the scientific questions and challenges of the 21st This will enable them to go further than simply recalling the knowledge of the National Curriculum and exam specification. An example of this is the ambitious work we do with students in Y9 to help them to understand the problems faced by climate change.
- We develop in our students a critical understanding by encouraging them to read scientific literature and analyse science in the media. This is in line with our intent statements “to understand implications of science for the future”.
- When preparing our curriculum plans, we have taken care to ensure that we have the same expected outcomes for all students. We differentiate our teaching to ensure that all students are engaged and challenged in achieving these outcomes. Our learning schemes highlight the strategies that we use to challenge students. We believe that suitable challenge involves applying knowledge in a range of contexts and explaining scientific concepts using this knowledge.
Overview of Curriculum planning for Key Stage 3 and 4
Our rationale for curriculum planning is to break learning schemes down into suggested teaching episodes that ensure effective recall of planned components of learning. We also pay careful attention to the sequencing of these learning episodes.
- Our suggested teaching episodes have been chosen to provide a variety of tasks that allow students to shift knowledge from their working memory to their long-term memory.
- Our main technique for this is revisiting, recapping and recalling knowledge.
- For example, the first suggested teaching episode of all lessons will be a recall of the key knowledge from the previous lesson.
- By offering a variety of tasks we can keep students engaged with different activities whilst encouraging repetitive recall of the same key knowledge.
- An example of this is in the cells topic, students are first shown how to draw and label a plant and animal cell. They are then asked to compare two cells and finally they are given an unknown cell and asked to identify whether it is a plant or animal cell. All three of these activities work to help students remember the structure of plant and animal cells.
- We are able to identify the components of learning through a comprehensive understanding of not just the KS3 and KS4 National Curriculum but also the KS2 National Curriculum which allows us to sequence students learning based upon their previous learning.
- To use the example of Genetics we identify that students will have a knowledge of plants and animals (for example plant reproduction and the circulatory system) from KS2.
- We then employ a spiral curriculum at KS3, firstly covering cells in Year 7 Term 1, followed by reproduction in Term 2 and classification in Term 3.
- This supports our aim for students to learn and then recap and recall on a regular basis, ensuring that key knowledge becomes part of students’ long-term memory.
- This means that by the time that students study Genetics in year 9 they already have a strong understanding of cells, reproduction, gametes and variation in organisms.
- Therefore, when we introduce the concept of inheritance students already have the tools and knowledge to understand, reducing their cognitive load.
- At KS4 students are expected to have an understanding of meiosis and alleles, which can be complex concepts for students.
- However, when designing our KS3 curriculum plans we carefully consider which key knowledge underpins this understanding.
- This includes a knowledge of cell structure, inheritance and variation, we therefore ensure that this knowledge is secure at KS3 and regularly recalled in preparation for KS4 learning. This allows us more time for recall of higher-level knowledge at KS4 as we do not need to dedicate as much of our time to teaching the basics.
- We support this through regular exposure to exam style questions.
Overview of assessment strategy for KS3 and KS4
Our assessment strategy is based around the idea of making sure that information received following student assessments is used effectively to improve teaching. It is a priority to be able to quickly identify pupils who are not learning more and remembering more. We believe this allows us to further identify which subject components are missing from the knowledge base. We can then help the student improve their knowledge and longer term recall of the components.
- We utilise a wide range of assessment strategies, such as peer and self-assessment, live marking, teacher marking, assessed homework tasks and end of term assessments. This allows teachers to have a dynamic understanding of the progress of students.
- We collect data on a faculty wide basis after end of topic tests and this is reviewed by the Faculty leader and Assistant Faculty leaders.
- We use this data to feedback to teaching staff and to tailor our intervention sessions at KS4 to provide suitable support. Furthermore, we use this data to review our learning schemes, identifying areas where larger numbers of students have struggled. We can then update these in real time as the active documents they should be to more effectively support learning.
- Excellent interpersonal relationships between classroom teachers and students as well as consistent use of assessment strategies means that our teachers have a strong understanding of the progress of all students. Teachers regularly pass on concerns to the science faculty leadership in regards to student who are not keeping up with the pace of the programme.
- We promote and support regular communication with parents, guardians and carers, especially at KS4, and by providing parents with a knowledge of our curriculum and what their children should be learning we often find that parents will contact us to relay their input on how the child is progressing.
- The science leadership team is also in regular contact with the pastoral team to identify students at risk of falling behind before this happens. This allows us to apply proactive support.
- At the start of topics of work, we provide students with front sheets, outlining the expected outcomes for the topic and then provide regular opportunities for students to carry out self-evaluation following assessment, for example after assessed homework tasks for KS3.
- This empowers students to understand what they are expected to know and means that students are able to communicate with teachers to self-identify the areas that they have struggled with.
- Additionally, students carry out end of topic review lessons where teachers are able to review their assessment and classwork to ensure that the teacher has a clear understanding of the progress of students.