The new Programme of Study for science

With the final version of the National Curriculum for England published on 11th September 2014, surely there won’t be many changes from the interim published in July?  Not with teachers planning over the summer holidays?

Initial glances show that the layout has changed, but the structure hasn’t: The Programmes of Study (PoS) are still set out as they have been in the February and July version, with Working Scientifically set for phases: Key Stage 1 (KS1), Lower Key Stage 2 (LKS2) and Upper Key Stage 2 (UKS2), and the subject content arranged by year groups, similar to maths.  In terms of layout, turning lots of portrait pages over may be easier, but having the statutory guidance alongside the statutory made for easier exemplification possibly in the previous layouts.

On closer examination of the details, however, there aren’t any changes to the ‘blurb’ specifying nature of science and how the curriculum is organised etc.  You still need to cover the program by the end of a key stage, but can be flexible about when you deliver it.  You are still required to set out your curriculum year by year for all to see, on-line, and there still isn’t any assessment being set out other than to be in line with the programmes of study for the end of key stage.  The only addition is the emboldened text that states that the non-statutory content does not have to be taught! Indeed, comparison of Working Scientifically across the whole primary guidance, shows that it has changed only subtly from February to July, except for a couple of points in the non-statutory guidance in LKS 2 (years 3 & 4) i.e. they should now begin to look for naturally occurring patterns and relationships rather than just patterns.

In UKS 2 (years 5 & 6) the statutory guidance has changed to include: taking repeat readings where appropriate, (which is backed up in the non-statutory guidance: and whether to repeat them) and when recording, to include the use of scatter graphs.  The use of simple models has been removed altogether from UKS2.  The whole of the Working Scientifically area of study has morphed beautifully from the old Scientific Enquiry we know and love: the addition of the types of Enquiry to be studied being a much bigger focus and a huge relief to the scientific community who have campaigned to stop all enquiries becoming ‘Fair Tests’! When it comes to the subject content then there have been some subtle tweaks, e.g. in UKS2, the All Living Things areas, have been renamed Living Things and their Habitats.  Some others you may feel are semantics, as it is only the wording of the PoS that has changed for clarification, e.g. take a look at the statements for Year 1 on Plants in July and Sept versions: identify and name a variety of common plants, including garden plants, wild plants and trees, and those classified as deciduous and evergreen, has become identify and name a variety of common wild and garden plans, including deciduous and evergreen trees.  It does illustrate the trees are plants, by encompassing them in the statement as whole, so this can only be for the good, in a similar way that invertebrates have not been singled out from ‘animals’ anymore! 

The non-statutory guidance reflects this too.

Year 1
The headline change for Year 1 is that Light has gone – again!  Out in February, in, in July but out again in September.  The opaque/transparent part has been merged in to the materials, as part of ‘properties’ (non-statutory guidance).  Minor changes include the study of invertebrates being removed, and the forces section of the Materials PoS moving to Year 2, along with the non-statutory guidance on studying the people that developed useful materials.

Year 2
The major change is the complete loss of a study area: Sound, in a similar fashion to Light in year 1: out, in out again. More subtle alterations include Materials swapping the word uses, for suitability to make way for the materials can be changed by bending etc, moving up from Year 1.  But the PoS on movement on different surfaces has now moved to year 3.

Year 3
Obviously the Light topic now has been expanded to cover what would have been in Year 1, with the addition of the dangers of looking at the Sun.  The Forces and Magnets area now has the additional statement related to movement on different surfaces, lifted directly from July’s Year 2 version.  The non-statutory guidance supports this change.   The only other change in Year 3, is the addition in Rocks of what changes occur when they are added to water in part of the non-statutory guidance.

Year 4
All Living Things has become Living things and their Habitats, and the PoS are another example of a wording changing rather than the content itself but again the focus on invertebrates has gone with more on all animals.  Sound obviously has major changes, due to not being covered in Year 2 now, with the addition of Year 2 PoS statements from the July version.  The non-statutory guidance has also been altered slightly to remove data and links to maths in Materials and in Sound.

Year 5
Again, the title of the All Living Things area now includes Habitats in the title.  The Materials area has removed the focus on comparative and fair tests when looking at the properties of materials, although it is still in the PoS for uses of materials.  Interestingly the word understand has been changed to know when talking about dissolving.  Earth and Space has been expanded slightly to cover the apparent movement of the Sun across the sky as this is no longer in the Seasonal Changes area in Year 1.  The PoS statement for pulleys etc has changed, but this does help the non-specialist with this new area of study to see not only what the purpose of a gear or pulley or level is for, but also how far to take the understanding.

Year 6.
Yes, Evolution and Inheritance is still there!  Other minor changes include recognising that light moves in straight lines, rather than understanding it and that there is no requirement to teach the children to predict the size of shadows when the position of the light source changes – possibly because ‘prediction’ is not directly part of Working Scientifically for primary, although it is in the non-statutory guidance still.  Refraction has been removed from the non-statutory guidance, along with looking at colour, which is now (back into) KS3.

All in all it appears that the curriculum was quite different in the first drafts, but has come back to something that we are all more familiar with.  There are some major changes, like lack of Sound and Light in KS1, and the inclusion of Evolution and Inheritance in Year 6, with some minor changes such as the movement of topics between year groups, e.g. Teeth and Moving & Growing between years 3 and 4.  Obviously this is only if you were basing your curriculum on the old QCA units.  But you can still be creative and move things around.  As long as it is all covered by the end of the Key Stage, and that you can show that your children are making progress, now is the chance to make links more carefully and pertinently to the curriculum you are teaching.  Good luck!


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