Ofsted science review: Textbooks for primary science?

Ofsted has just published a new research review into science. This is a huge document that takes a lot of digesting! To help you to navigate it, we’re planning to take a closer look at some of the key points for primary school teachers over the coming weeks. Firstly, let’s look at what Ofsted says about curriculum materials, including the use of textbooks:

There is evidence that some textbooks in England have become narrowly linked to examinations [footnote 134] and can be a source of misconceptions.[footnote 135] However, high-quality science textbooks fulfil several valuable roles in supporting pupils’ learning.[footnote 136] For example, they can give clear delineation of content with a precise focus on key concepts and knowledge.”

Firstly, we must remember that Ofsted’s science review is not just for primary but also up to KS5. As a primary teacher with over 20 years of experience, I cannot imagine using textbooks effectively with any year group in a primary classroom. It takes me back to my own primary school experience, where the dusty, outdated books were pulled out and I was told to turn to page 96 and that was the only teacher interaction for the entire lesson! This is not what Ofsted is suggesting. At the heart of this is the need for good quality science texts and resources that are accurate and don’t contain misconceptions.

The good news…

This is almost permission to ask your senior leaders for money to spend on good quality science-related texts. The first step should be to check what resources you already have. Make sure that you don’t have any outdated science books lurking in the school library. Then check each classroom has access to the relevant science texts for their year group. This will show any gaps.

Magazines are a great source of information. Whizz Pop bang is a monthly magazine which has a team of expert science writers. These are listed at the front of each magazine.

This means everything that is published is scientifically accurate, up-to-date and is written for children to understand in a fun and engaging way. There is new content every month, so it’s never outdated.

An example feature page from issue 70 ‘Terrific Teeth’

Each magazine features an interview with a scientist, an explanation text, instructions to make something eco-friendly, a non-chronological report on an animal and a historical biography of a scientist, explaining how they made a new scientific discovery. In the research review, Ofsted states that pupils should know about how science has helped in the past:

As pupils learn science, they also learn about its uses and significance to society and their own lives.[footnote 7] This will highlight the significant contribution science has made in the past. For example, by eradicating smallpox and discovering penicillin.”

If you subscribe to the school resources, you will get access to a huge back catalogue of these texts as PDFs in our reading comprehension packs. They have been grouped by year group to ensure progression.

If you are worried that the magazines will get spoiled easily and won’t last long, please read this blog post by That Science Lady.

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Top tips for becoming a super science co-ordinator

Are you new to the role of Science Co-ordinator? Or maybe you’ve been a Science Co-ordinator for a while, but you’d like to freshen things up. Read these top tips from our primary school expert Kirsty Williams…

Writing your action plan

Being a co-ordinator of any subject can be daunting and it can be difficult to know where to start. An action plan is an ideal way to get things off the ground.

If you can, talk to the previous Science Co-ordinator. They will already have a wealth of knowledge on the subject and will be able to tell you what they have already done, what has worked well and what they think the next steps are. If they have left the school, look at their action plan from the previous year and speak to senior management staff to find out more information. It’s really important to establish the subject’s current profile at your school before you can decide what will go into your action plan. Just remember to make the targets achievable – for example, although having a science week is nice, an excellent science day might be more realistic.

Your responsibilities as a science co-ordinator

Once you’re familiar with your school’s science provision and future aims, you can write an action plan based on your responsibilities as a science co-ordinator. These are:

1. Promoting science

To be a good co-ordinator, you don’t have to be a subject specialist, but you do need to be interested in the subject and confident in teaching it. To be able to effectively promote science to the rest of the staff, it’s important to lead by example. When another teacher walks into your classroom, it should be clear that you have a love of science. Always have a science display and, when the opportunity arises, get your class to share their science work. Encourage other teachers to send their pupils to you to show you their science achievements. You could even keep some special science stickers to hand out as rewards!

Try to incorporate science into as many lessons as you can. Share your passion with the children and make it cross curricular. Choose science-related texts during English lessons and for reading comprehensions. Use historical scientists as well as current scientists, making sure there is a balance of gender. Interviews with people who use science in their jobs is a great way of promoting science capital. You want your pupils to see that science is everywhere and useful and can lead to some really exciting jobs, such as being a nature navigator or a coral biologist who gets to dive in the ocean as part of her job, or a thrill engineer who designs rollercoasters! The list goes on – check out our bank of reading comprehensions here.

In staff meetings, it can be hard to give your subject a voice because it’s one of many subjects taught and you don’t want to add to your fellow teachers’ workloads. However, don’t forget that all children have to take several exams in science at GCSE level, along with English and maths, so it shouldn’t be allowed to be pushed out of the primary curriculum. If you have the opportunity to lead a staff meeting, try to make it fun and practical so that it’s memorable; remind teachers how enjoyable it is to teach science and make sure they leave with an idea they can try out in their own class. Whizz Pop Bang’s downloadable teaching resources are packed with engaging hands-on science lesson plans to ensure staff are never short of ideas.

2. Ensuring coverage and progression

It’s important to ensure each area of science is being taught in the correct year group, in line with the National Curriculum. To do this, you can ask teachers which topics they are teaching in each term, plus which enquiry skills they are covering. This overview will help you to see if there are any gaps, and a record should be kept in your co-ordinator’s file. The PSTT has a great poster which explains each enquiry skill, which may be a useful document to give to each member of staff to support their planning.

It can be tempting to buy into a scheme to try to ensure progression. A scheme can provide a good skeleton to support your less confident colleagues, but it isn’t strictly necessary – schemes are expensive and can still have gaps.

To ensure progression in lessons, you should make time during the year to do a medium-term planning scrutiny. You should look for progression and make sure that members of staff are covering the content of each topic correctly. It’s important that year groups don’t cross over. Some topics are smaller than others so, where this is the case, encourage teachers to broaden their pupils’ scientific thinking and cover more of the enquiry skills, rather than adding in further content that may be taught in another year group. It’s important that pupils learn science skills, as we all know it’s about the journey and not about the final outcome. OFSTED will be looking to see evidence of where lessons are going and where they have come from, so showing progression is particularly important.

Vocabulary progression is also key; giving each teacher a vocabulary list for each topic can be helpful. Knowledge organisers are also popular. These are useful tools that help teachers to make sure they cover the correct content. It’s important these are used correctly – they shouldn’t be given to pupils to learn the content, but instead, they should be used as a support for spellings and definitions. Whizz Pop Bang has vocabulary posters and knowledge organisers for each year group – they’re available within our teaching resources.

3. Resourcing

You are responsible for ensuring teachers have the resources they need to teach their subjects. One of your first jobs at the beginning of the school year should be making sure the resources are organised and clearly labelled so you can see what is missing or needs replacing.  Ensure consumable resources, such as batteries, are topped up regularly and buy class sets of beakers and measuring cylinders etc, to make testing ‘fair’. In the current situation, the sharing of certain resources is prohibited. There is more guidance on this from CLEAPS

Whizz Pop Bang provides hundreds of engaging downloadable science lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, hands-on investigations and science reading comprehensions that are all written by primary school teachers and linked to the National Curriculum.

4. Supporting less confident colleagues

Supporting teachers who are not confident with teaching science is really important. As primary school teachers, we are expected to teach lots of different subjects so there’s nothing wrong in admitting that you need help teaching an area of science – we can’t all be good at everything! Talk to your colleagues and establish which areas they are less confident about and how you can help them. You might be able to assist them with planning or you could arrange for them to watch you teach science. If it’s subject knowledge that they’re wobbly on, Reach Out CPD is a really useful free website that explains the science behind the topics. It only takes a few minutes to go through each unit.

In Whizz Pop Bang’s downloadable lesson plans, the science behind each experiment or investigation is clearly explained, to give teachers the confidence they need to deliver the lessons.

5. Keeping up to date

As part of your role, it is important to be aware of what is new. This is hard to do when you are busy but social media is an easy way to do this. It is a great place to find support and get new ideas. As a community, teachers are supportive and are keen to share ideas and give advice. There are some great groups out there, such as primary science co-ordinators and the Whizz Pop Bang teachers’ group, which gives regular updates on new resources added to the website and shares relevant news and articles.

6. Keeping things on track

Once you’ve written an action plan and begun to implement it across your school, it’s important to keep an eye on how things are progressing. There are plenty of ways to keep track of science in school – observing lessons, learning walks, book scrutiny, planning scrutiny and pupil chats. All of these are important, but most importantly, remember to lead by example so that all the staff and children sense your infectious love of science!

If you have found this blog useful, we also have a blog about how to prepare for an Ofsted deep dive into science.

Whizz Pop Bang magazine and teaching resources are brilliant ways to enhance your school’s science teaching:

  • We provide downloadable science lesson plans, PowerPoint presentations, hands-on investigations and science reading comprehensions written by primary school teachers.
  • Whizz Pop Bang teaching resources link to the National Curriculum, ensuring correct coverage.
  • All of our resources are year group specific, ensuring progression between the years.
  • We make cross-curricular links to other subjects, such as English, Maths, History, Geography, Design and Technology and PSHE.

Prices from as little as £190 per year for a copy of Whizz Pop Bang magazine through the post each month and whole-school access to our ever-growing library of downloadable teaching resources, with unlimited teacher logins.

Using Whizz pop bang school resources has enabled investigations to be an integral part of my science planning. I now have investigations and experiments throughout my planning rather than just at the end. The lessons are easy to resource and the pack has everything I need to teach the lesson so it saves me time as well!” Louise Hampson, Year 3 teacher  

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How can your primary school embrace the new Ofsted framework?

The new Ofsted framework comes into place from September 2019. Its focus is on ensuring that primary schools are delivering a well-rounded education across the whole of the primary curriculum. This is an exciting time for science and all other non-assessed primary subjects as it shifts some of the focus away from maths and literacy.

To help schools prepare for the changes, we’ve got some top tips on how Whizz Pop Bang’s new primary science and reading resources can help deliver a cross-curricular approach in your school.

Below are some of the key requirements from the new Ofsted framework…

  1. “Learners study the full curriculum. Providers ensure this by teaching a full range of subjects for as long as possible, ‘specialising’ only when necessary.”
    During their top-level view, headteachers will be asked to explain how their curriculum is implemented and inspectors will explore what is on offer to students.  As they start to deep dive into science, they will want to see a sequence of lessons, scrutinize books and talk to pupils. They will be checking for coverage but more importantly that pupils learn and remember.

  2. “Coverage is a prerequisite for learning, but simply having covered a part of the curriculum does not in itself indicate that pupils know or remember more.”
    Here at Whizz Pop Bang our aim is to put the Whizz, Pop and Bang into science and topic lessons in primary schools. We create lessons that are fun, easy to teach and therefore memorable for pupils and teachers alike (in a good way!).
    Kids love our hands-on experiments; making exploding rockets, growing mould and testing out cool paper planes, making recycling machines and finding out why things float… trying out experiments that fail and learning from trying again. Subscribe to Whizz Pop Bang for your school to access over 100 tried and tested science resources, with more added every month to keep science teaching fresh and topical.

  3. The resources and materials that teachers select – in a way that does not create unnecessary workload for staff – reflect the provider’s ambitious intentions for the course of study and clearly support the intent of a coherently planned curriculum…” The Whizz Pop Bang ten-minute spectacular science PowerPoints are designed to get a scientific discussion going in the classroom. These enable teachers to share deeper science topics into their lessons, with questions and answers included in the PowerPoint so teachers don’t have to spend time researching them. Our primary school resources have clear links to the science and reading curricula, they are of high quality and require minimal resources, helping to reduce teacher workload without skimping on the quality of the lesson and pupil’s learning.

  4. Teachers have good knowledge of the subject(s) and courses they teach. Leaders provide effective support for those teaching outside their main areas of expertise…” We know that not all teachers are science specialists, so with this in mind we include an age-appropriate scientific explanation on every lesson plan, with scientific terminology to expand children’s vocabulary. This increases teacher’s confidence and adds extra support for primary school teachers.

  5. “Teachers present subject matter clearly, promoting appropriate discussion about the subject matter they are teaching.”
    Our reading resources are taken from all issues of Whizz Pop Bang magazine and cover many different non-fiction genres (interviews, non-chronological reports, historical biographies, explanation texts and instructions), helping teachers to make cross-curricular links and promote relevant and thought-provoking discussions with pupils.

  6. “In primary schools, inspectors will always carry out a deep dive in reading…”
    Teachers love our reading resources as the content is current, inspiring and relevant, and linked to the reading curriculum. Teachers can download and print as many texts as required, allowing whole class reading or group reading. Our questions sheets relate to the reading curriculum and are differentiated. In all texts we help pupils to pronounce scientific words by breaking them down phonetically.

  7. “A rigorous approach to the teaching of reading develops learners’ confidence and enjoyment in reading. At the early stages of learning to read, reading materials are closely matched to learners’ phonics knowledge.”
    We offer a unique resource for schools, with new science and reading resources available every month to accompany each new issue of Whizz Pop Bang magazine. Each issue is themed, which links well with topic-based learning in schools, as well as seasons and events.

Read the full Ofsted framework report here.

A subscription to Whizz Pop Bang magazine and resources is the perfect way to enhance your school’s curriculum, and meet key elements of Ofsted’s new guidelines.

Subscribe to Whizz Pop Bang for your school for:

  • Inspirational and topical science magazines delivered each month
  • Unlimited teacher log-ins to access downloadable science and reading resources
  • Prices from just £190 for the entire year

Visit our dedicated schools page, call us on 0330 2233 790 or email schools@whizzpopbang.com. Together we can inspire the scientists of the future!

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62,000 children take part in Great Science Share for Schools

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell of Manchester University

Tomorrow, Tuesday 18th June, over 62,000 children are taking part in the Great Science Share for Schools to share their science learning.

The Great Science Share is about children communicating something that they have been investigating which starts with a question that they are interested in. By promoting child-centred learning in science, the campaign provides opportunity for young people to communicate their scientific questions and investigations to new audiences – in their own words and ways. They will even grill University and civic leaders on matters of climate crisis.

WHERE? All over the world! Schools across the UK, Nigeria, Brazil and India are taking part. See if schools near you are having an event on the map below, or visit greatscienceshare.org for the interactive map.

Great Science Share for schools map of satellite events

The national campaign led by The University of Manchester aims to inspire young people from across the UK and overseas to share their science learning with new audiences. Children and teachers from schools as far afield as Nigeria, India and Brazil, are getting involved alongside children from Great Ormond Street and Manchester Hospital Schools.

The Great Science Share for Schools’ UK flagship event will take place at The University of Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery on Tuesday, 18 June. This will see hundreds of children from 45 primary schools across Greater Manchester demonstrating their own science investigations to each other on campus.

Are your children taking part? Is your school hosting a satellite event? Share your experiences!

The consequences of plastic pollution are at the forefront of the Manchester event, as Derby High School students share their findings through a specially choreographed dance, whilst other children from Park View Community School have considered what a non-plastic world might look like. This year it’s evident that children are concerned with the environment and how they can use science and engineering to improve lives.

Students will also be putting questions to Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell and Lord Mayor of Manchester Councillor Abid Latif Chohan about what current and aspiring scientists alike can help address some of the planets biggest problems.

“Once again the Great Science Share for Schools has grown and it’s outstanding to see how such a simple concept can spread so wide. We are proud to be able to give children an opportunity where their scientific questions and interest are valued.”

Dr Lynne Bianchi, Head of SEERIH (Science & Engineering Education Research and Innovation Hub)

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