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What Does Ofsted Say About Science?

Earlier this year Ofsted released their report into primary and secondary science teaching in the first of a new series of subject reports which gather together evidence from routine school inspections. The report highlights many positives in the improvement of science curriculums despite the challenges caused by Covid, and Amanda Speilman, Chief Inspector, said that she felt ‘encouraged’ by the progress made in science teaching and learning.


However, there were some areas where improvements were needed according to the report. So what were these?

1. Secondary schools should not underestimate what pupils have learnt at primary school

Pupils will come to secondary school with a much greater understanding of science knowledge and concepts from primary school than teachers sometimes realise. This can mean time is wasted repeating learning that pupils have already acquired. Good formative assessment at the beginning of Year 7 and at the start of new units can save hours of time which can be used for new learning. If you are following the Propello curriculum you can be reassured that you already have a clear set of starting points and the subsequent learning journey for all pupils entering secondary school.

2. Ensure that the science curriculum builds on prior learning and draws in concepts from other areas

The curriculum should be built to make science learning ‘easier’. By building systematically on prior learning, pupils will develop skills and knowledge more efficiently by making learning links. Skills from other subjects, in particular maths, should also be built in to give practical and linked applications of these. Pupils will sometimes have misconceptions about scientific theories that need to be identified so that these can be unpicked and retaught. With this in mind, all unit overview plans from Propello Science contain common misconceptions that your pupils may share and a clear explanation so that you can confidently address them.

3. Time needs to be built into lessons for retrieval practice

Ensure that enough time is built into the curriculum and individual lessons for pupils to remember what they have been taught previously. This may be from a previous lesson, unit or year. Good retrieval practice will focus on actively engaging with the knowledge in the form of recall activities. See this blog for Propello’s Top 10 Retrieval Practice Ideas.

4. SEND pupils should follow a curriculum with the same breadth but with scaffolding and support

Rather than narrowing the breadth of learning for pupils with SEND, teachers should look to put scaffolding and support in place to ensure that these pupils can access the same curriculum content as their peers. At Propello, all curriculum resources have been developed with accessible learning in mind - this includes instructional level text option, dyslexia friendly fonts and background colour selector, language options and distraction minimiser tools, and support ideas within lesson plans.

5. Good quality practical science needs to be taught regularly and with a clear purpose

The teaching of good quality practical work was found to be uneven across the country and so the report recommends that all pupils have enough opportunities to take part in high quality practicals which have a clear purpose in relation to the curriculum. For ideas for delivering high quality practical lessons, including exam board-linked KS4 required practicals, see the ‘Practicals’ tab on the Propello platform.

6. Schools need to have a plan for developing teacher’s knowledge through CPD

Ensuring that staff have the opportunity to take part in CPD which develops expertise in line with the school’s curriculum is important. This should cover both substantive and disciplinary knowledge so that staff are able to plan and deliver all curriculum content effectively.

7. Flex the curriculum to respond to pupils’ learning progress

It is important to recognise and respond to the different rates of progress and learning journeys of pupils and so an amount of flex needs to be built into the curriculum. If you are using the individual pupil Learning Paths at Propello then you already have the ideal tool in place for this - just assign activities into your own groups according to each student’s area of need or development.

How can Propello help?

For more help and ideas on how you and your school can respond to the Ofsted report into Science, sign up for a free account to access our full range of adaptable teaching and learning resources, individual learning paths and SEND accessibility features. 

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