Science Key Stage 3 and 4
The Curriculum Purpose
The intention of teaching and learning in the science dept. is to enable students to:
- develop curiosity about science and the natural world
- acquire knowledge, understanding and skills to solve problems and make informed decisions about scientific issues
- develop skills of investigation to design and carry out experiments leading to evidence which conclusions can be made from and evaluated
- understand the interdependence of science, technology and society in the context of SMSC, economic, political and environmental issues
- communicate scientific understanding verbally and in writing
- enable students to make progress and achieve excellent exam outcomes at KS4/5
This is displayed to students in labs as:
“We learn science to:
- be curious
- solve problems
- link to our lives
The curriculum is mastery in nature. Teachers lead classes at an appropriate pace and only move on when key knowledge has been mastered.
At Key Stage 3, knowledge is organised into subjects, big ideas and key concepts. The big ideas are revisited yearly in a spiral curriculum nature. Powerful knowledge has been agreed upon and sufficient time has been allocated to allow time for students to reach a deep understanding. Teachers have time to teach students how to apply their knowledge.
At Key Stage 4, knowledge is organised into subjects and topics which match the AQA Combined Science (Trilogy) and separate science specifications.
At both Key Stages 4 and 5, there is full coverage of working scientifically, maths, literacy and practical techniques.
Key concepts that underpin Science
The key concepts covered within the big ideas (at KS3) and topics (at KS4) match with the requirements of the National Curriculum.
Key Stage 3 Big Ideas:
Forces predict motion
Fields produce forces
Energy is conserved
Electricity transfers energy
Radiation transfers energy
Structure determines properties
Reactions rearrange matter
Earth systems interact
Cells are alive
Bodies are systems
Species show variation
Characteristics are inherited
Organisms are interdependent
Key Stage 4 Topics
- Particle model of matter
- Atomic structure
- Magnetism and electromagnetism
- Atomic structure and the Periodic Table
- Bonding, structure and properties of matter
- Quantitative chemistry
- Chemical changes
- Energy changes
- Rate and extent of chemical change
- Organic chemistry
- Chemical analysis
- Earth’s atmosphere
- Using resources
- Cell biology
- Infectious disease
- Homeostasis and response
- Inheritance, variation and evolution
Key Features of Learning
The science department consists of 14 teachers (4 of whom teach other subjects, are part-time or have responsibility elsewhere) – 5 biology specialists, 4 chemistry specialists and 4 physics specialists. We have three science technicians specialising in each of the scientific disciplines led by our nationally-recognised (Salters CLEAPSS national award) lead technician.
The department has 9 science laboratories and an ICT suite equipped with 28 computers. Technicians prepare practical work in 3 preparation rooms.
What will you see in science lessons?
All lessons have a clear objective, outlined to students near the beginning of the lesson.
Teachers plan lessons thoroughly, adapting teaching and activities for learners with SEN and in response to the progress made by individuals and groups, based on formative assessment, including whole-class knowledge and understanding checks, such as multiple-choice hinge questions.
Praise is given by teachers to pupils for making good effort in tasks and for sharing ideas and answering questions, to encourage high levels of participation. Praise and sanctions are used to ensure students always exhibit positive behaviours for learning. Teachers circulate around the lab when students are working, providing targeted support. When students are working something out, this support may be prompting, guidance to use the resources available or re-teaching a key point. When students are carrying out practical work, this support may be checking students understand the method or demonstrating how to correctly set up equipment.
Students will have opportunities to ‘think, pair, share’: think independently, discuss answers and practise speaking like scientists in small groups, then share ideas using scientific terminology with the class.
Demonstrations and a significant number of practicals are used to reinforce key concepts and phenomena (substantive knowledge) and to model the scientific method, so that students build their knowledge of how scientific understanding is reached. Additionally, all class practicals help build students’ procedural knowledge.
For example, a teacher may demonstrate the chemiluminescence of luminol to show students one of the ways that energy is released by a chemical reaction (substantive knowledge). Students may then carry out an investigation into how the volume of a metal added to a salt solution affects a temperature change, building their disciplinary knowledge of the scientific method as well as their procedural knowledge of using thermometers and other general lab apparatus.
At KS3, students do Science Skills Assessments (SSAs) which involve teaching, practise and individual written feedback (over 2 lessons) of a specific skill related to the scientific method, building students’ disciplinary knowledge. This includes plans, graphs, conclusions and evaluations.
In lessons following a test, mock exam or SSA (at KS3) teachers will go through answers giving whole-class feedback to complement individual written feedback. Students will make corrections and set targets for improvement as part of DIRT (Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time) in green pen.
In Key Stage 3, Year 7 activities in lessons are based on the 5 A’s. Each key concept within a unit is taught as a progression through the 5 A’s over a series of between 1 and 3 lessons on average, which will not normally all be covered in each lesson.
In Years 8 and 9, and in Key Stage 4, topics are broken down into sub-topics which follow a similar model, though are not explicitly signposted as the 5 A’s.
The 5 A’s
- Activate: A pre-assessment of pre-requisite knowledge and understanding, which the teacher uses to address misconceptions and ensure foundational knowledge, needed for acquisition of new knowledge
- Acquire: Learning tasks to build understanding of a concept or process, including practice and recall of procedures and facts. Teachers give powerful explanations, breaking down large and complex ideas, using targeted questioning and cold-calling to recall and incrementally build upon prior knowledge. Practical activities demonstrate principles and model the investigative process of the scientific method. Watching videos, reading extended text, and talking about concepts and methods aid students’ understanding of abstract concepts, and improve students’ oracy and both general and disciplinary literacy.
- Apply: Practice in applying the key concept to unfamiliar situations
- Assess: A check of initial mastery, which the teacher and students use to identify areas which need further practice or teaching.
- Analyse: Challenging practice to use analytical skills.
What will you see in science books?
In Key Stage 3, students use orange exercise books for their classwork and homework. This will include labelling diagrams, writing explanations, deliberate practice of answering questions and results from practicals. It is also where they record key notes and information about a topic and the knowledge they need to remember. Orange books are checked for classwork completion and organisation in the Autumn Terms of Y7 and Y8 to ensure students are in good habits with regards to work presentation. Individual feedback is given using a proforma. For Y8 and Y9, deep marking of one task of the teacher’s choice provides individual written feedback which students then use to improve their work in green pen. Students self and peer assess low-stakes assessment (both classwork and homework) in green pen.
KS3 students use green books for their SSAs. After each assessed activity, teachers provide individual feedback on a proforma colour-coded according to the skill being assessed. Students then act on this feedback by making corrections and setting a target for improvement in green pen. (This takes place during DIRT.)
At KS4, students use course notes for their classwork and homework. These include notes pages and worksheets for all topics in the subject area for a specific year group. This allows students to make links to previous learning. All students also have an exam practice workbook used for low-stakes assessment and/or as part of the learning process. In both books, green pen is used by students for self and peer assessment.
At both Key Stages 3 and 4, students store their teacher-marked assessments in folders. They make annotations and corrections in green pen during DIRT.
What formative assessment will you see in Science?
Hinge questions, such as multiple-choice questions, are used by teachers after teaching some knowledge to assess initial mastery, address misconceptions and help determine what needs to be re-taught.
Written tasks involving fact recall and application are self- and peer-assessed, with the teacher going through answers with the class and circulating during the activity to assess students’ competence and level of understanding.
Educake, an e-learning platform for low-stakes assessment is used in class and for homework to provide both students and the teacher with a fine-grained analysis of students’ recall and understanding of specific pieces of knowledge. The teacher is also able to identify general areas of strength and weakness for re-teaching and further practice. Educake provides an explanation for answers when students are incorrect, and they can query an answer they still do not understand, which the teacher responds to online. Teachers can use information obtained about progress or misconceptions from an Educake homework to re-teach in the following lesson and set a follow-up activity that allows students to address the misunderstanding, lack of recall or misconception.
What extra-curricular activities are offered in Science?
There are weekly KS3 and KS4 Science Clubs where students take part in a range of enjoyable practical activities and investigations that build on the big ideas covered in lessons, foster their love of science and improve their practical skills.
A Y9 Crest Award club runs weekly in which students work on a project over the course of a year, such as researching, building and testing a glider, which leads to a nationally-recognised award.
Each week, an interesting science article relating to school-level knowledge is put up on science lab doors, with key vocabulary defined alongside, to encourage students waiting in the corridor to engage with science literature.
An extensive range of one-off activities are offered. These have included in the previous year:
- The Faraday Challenge which involved students designing and building a prototype for Alder Hey Children’s hospital
- The Biology, Chemistry and Physics Olympiads and Challenges – national competitions setting a demanding set of questions
- Women in STEM: a live careers Q&A between students and women scientists
- 101 Jobs: an online Q&A with a diverse field of scientists and engineers
- Science Week Lab Coat Competition: involving students designing a lab coat on the theme of ‘growth’
- Engineering talk: KS4 students attended a virtual talk from Cambridge graduate and former chief scientist at Vodafone entitled ‘Engineers change the world’
- Life in a Lab: students attended a talk and Q&A session delivered by scientists at Charles River laboratories working on drug discovery.
- RSC Analyst competition: students competed to find the perfect formula to make fish and chips, carrying out chromatography, gravimetry, colorimetry and titration.
- A whole-school parachute building competition
- A weekly summer term Forensics club