The Summary

What follows is a summary of many of the concerns that I have written about at more length on previous blogs. Feel free to share any of this blog around wherever you like.

Pulling everything together into the summary has served to confirm my worst thoughts – this curriculum as it stands is going to have a devastating effect on primary science. We have come so far with our subject over the past 30 years and know how primary science at its best matches perfectly with the way primary children learn i.e. through, thinking up, trying out and developing their own ideas. It would be a tragedy to see it go backwards. I was hoping that this document would give science extra status within the curriculum again. But not this way.

Key stakeholders are being invited to comment over the next few months and the document will go to full consultation with the teaching profession at the end of this year for implementation in schools  in September 2014.

Please help to change this document.

List of concerns about the draft Primary Science Curriculum


There are several errors in the document


Page & section


Describe the movement of the Sun across the sky 6 PoS

Y1 Physics

Not scientifically correct – insert ‘apparent’ before movement
‘It is not necessary to carry out tests on plants or measure their growth’ followed by ‘set up a comparative test to show that plants need light and water’ and ‘ensure pupils practise measuring length’ 7/8 N & G

Y2 Biology

Contradictory statements
Opposite the Chemistry section on Everyday Materials which looks at magnetic attraction and floating and sinking, the notes and guidance are about   ‘gaining knowledge and evidence about the effects of exercise on the human body’ by measuring ‘the rate of breathing and the number of heart beats per second’. 15 N & G

Y3 Chemistry

A typographical error presumably
Pupils ‘can set up and perform comparative and fair tests on the temperature at which water boils and freezes.’ 23 N & G

Y4 Chemistry

Not scientifically correct. In a fair test, we change something to see the effect on something else whilst keeping other variables the same. In this instance, we have just one thing sitting in front of us and we observe and measure how it changes over time. It is not a fair test.
Pupils record their data using scientific diagrams & labels, tables, bar and pie charts or models ..’ 31 N & G

Y5 Physics

(see also on p 24, Y 4 Physics)

Investigations suggested will lead to line graphs which are not included in list of ways to present data

Progression of Ideas

The development of ideas is sometimes haphazard. For example, if  you consider the development of work on gases through the whole document you find considerable anomalies as shown in the table below.

Year Reference to gasses
3 Oxygen specified (Programme of Study – Biology)
4 Oxygen mentioned in parentheses (Notes and Guidance – Biology)
4 Specific Gases in air NOT to be introduced (Notes and Guidance – Chemistry)
5 Human gaseous exchange studied but no reference to specific gasses (Programme of Study – Biology)
6 Carbon dioxide and oxidisation referred to (Notes and Guidance – Chemistry)


New additions which have little science content.

There are new additions to the curriculum which do not seem to build towards any deep conceptual thinking. Many of them are there because they have accompanying practical activities or demonstrations but they do not help children develop their science ideas.


Page & section


Ensure pupils use the local environment regularly throughout the year to observe and record the weather, using measurements where possible: rain fall (ml), temperature (°C) and wind direction. 9N & G

Y2 Biology

No link to any part of the accompanying PoS
Pupils should be taught to make a magnet 18 PoS

Y3 Physics

Technical not science – no development of ideas
Pupils should be taught to… name some constellations 15 N & G

Y4 Physics

Naming of constellations does not develop scientific ideas
Pupils should be taught to describe the effects of static electricity and show that they occur when two materials are rubbed together 32 PoS

Y5 Physics

Just describing effects not developing understanding of the cause of the effects – why is it materials behave in this way when rubbed together?


There are several surprising omissions



No encouragement for children to ask their own questions The tenor of the document is towards practical work that confirms a known outcome (with little thinking about the scientific process required) rather than children deciding for themselves how to answer a question that they have asked
No requirement for KS 1 to say what they found out The essential point of doing any science experiment is omitted
No work on Chemistry (materials) in Y1 An opportunity to explore everyday materials is missed
No mention of pushes and pulls in Y 2 work on Forces All the changes in motion are due to forces (pushes and pulls) acting on them
No work on soil in Y3 Work on rocks is carried out but nothing on what soil is, where it comes from, how soils differ from each other and why all plant life (and thereby animal life) depends on it
No mention of day and night caused by the Earth spinning on its own axis Time taken to complete a revolution is mentioned but not the effect it causes
No direct mention that Newton is the measure of Force All forces (pushes and pulls ) are measured in Newtons
No mention that light is reflected from surfaces Difficult to understand how we see objects without first grasping that the light from the object is reflected (and then goes into our eyes).

Level of demand

There are numerous instances where the level of demand is either too high or too low. The following is a selection:

Too hard

Page & section


Children can be introduced to the idea that all living things are made of cells 7N & G

Y2 Biology

Y2 pupils need to be able to see/touch/experience for things to make sense to them
Pupils should use the Biographies of Darwin and Linnaeus 20 N7 G

Y4 Biology

Pupils will be unable to use the biographies meaningfully
Pupils should be taught to describe respiration as the activity that releases energy from food as a fuel to maintain the body’s activity, and identify that plants also respire. 29 Y5


Energy and fuel not yet covered. Concept found difficult at KS 3
Pupils should be taught explain the idea of speed and determine the distance travelled based on the speed and time of travel. 36 PoS

Y6 Physics

A tricky concept at KS 3 – more maths than science

Too easy

Page & section


Pupils can apply their knowledge and skills by identifying, comparing and recording similarities and differences among themselves such as eye colour, hair colour, hand spans 22N & G

Y4 Biology

Very simple demand – usually done in KS 1
identify the four seasons and the regular changes in sunlight and weather associated with them in the UK. 25 PoS


Very simple demand – usually done in KS 1
Pupils should be taught to use simple optical instruments. 35 PoS

Y6 Physics

Just using the instrument shows nothing about your understanding of how it works


General Comments

  • There is a heavy emphasis on Biology. If you look at the areas pupils should study on the front page of KS1, Lower KS2 and Upper KS 2 they divide up as follows:

KS1                         3 Biology, 1 Chemistry, 3 Physics

Lower KS 2          7 Biology, 3 Chemistry, 5 Physics

Upper KS 2          5 Biology, 3 Chemistry, 4 Physics

Totals                    15 Biology, 7 Chemistry, 12Physics

This emphasis on Biology is surprising as this is the area in which children always do well in science tests.

  • There are many new areas of the curriculum where practical work will be impossible such as inheritance and evolution, respiration and other functions of internal organs, studying biographies of scientists.
  • The document discourages pupils from exploring their own interests scientifically.
  • There is a prohibition on teaching the practical and intellectual skills of scientific enquiry except to support the learning substantial content, which is counter to the developments in science education over the past 50 years. (see AKSIS Project amongst others)
  • There is a strong emphasis on learning words for things, a low level attainment which has little to do with progress in scientific understanding.

About annegoldsworthy

Primary Science specialist. Going for more independent thinking and less being told what to think. And that goes for teachers as well as children. We need to change that draft curriculum for science. Follow me on twitter @afgoldsworthy
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2 Responses to The Summary

  1. Les McDowall (Sandwell) says:

    Great stuff Anne. Hopefully the final programme will be very different!

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