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Science Policy – Do you need one?

Updated: Feb 9

The answer to this question depends on the purpose and the use to which the policy will be put. If it's a document that is being written to be signed off by the governors and then left on a computer/in a filing cabinet and never looked at again until it is time to review it, then I wouldn't bother.

If the policy is going to guide, support and hold teachers accountable for the teaching, learning and assessment of science in the school, then the answer is yes.

Put simply, the policy must serve a genuine purpose and give your teachers the information they need to deliver the school’s science curriculum, according to the school’s vision, or it will just gather real or metaphorical dust.

If you decide you are going to have a science policy that serves this purpose, then a good place to start is with what Ofsted have called the 'intent' of your curriculum, or the 'why' and the 'what' of your science curriculum.

Why is it important for children to learn about science?

The Government’s perspective on this is set out at the start of the National curriculum in England: science programmes of study under 'Purpose of study' and 'Aims', quoted below.

Purpose of study "A high-quality science education provides the foundations for understanding the world through the specific disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics. Science has changed our lives and is vital to the world’s future prosperity, and all pupils should be taught essential aspects of the knowledge, methods, processes and uses of science. Through building up a body of key foundational knowledge and concepts, pupils should be encouraged to recognise the power of rational explanation and develop a sense of excitement and curiosity about natural phenomena. They should be encouraged to understand how science can be used to explain what is occurring, predict how things will behave, and analyse causes."
Aims "The national curriculum for science aims to ensure that all pupils:
  • develop scientific knowledge and conceptual understanding through the specific disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics

  • develop understanding of the nature, processes and methods of science through different types of science enquiries that help them to answer scientific questions about the world around them

  • are equipped with the scientific knowledge required to understand the uses and implications of science, today and for the future"

If you decide that your school shares this answer to the question of why it is important for the children in your school to learn about science, then it seems perfectly reasonable to quote this as part of the intent for your science curriculum and therefore in your science policy. Having said that, it is also perfectly reasonable to develop your own answer to this question for your school.

What do your children need to learn?

The National Curriculum and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Statutory Framework set out the minimum entitlement for all primary school children in England. However, as Ofsted state in their recently published research into the factors that influence the quality of science education in schools in England,

"A high-quality science curriculum not only identifies the important concepts and procedures for pupils to learn, it also plans for how pupils will build knowledge of these over time. This starts in the early years. Research shows that high-quality science curriculums are coherent. This means the curriculums are organised so that pupils’ knowledge of concepts develops from component knowledge that is sequenced according to the logical structure of the scientific disciplines."

It is vital that your school’s curriculum is designed to ensure that your children encounter the knowledge in the National Curriculum and Statutory Framework in a sequence that builds appropriately over time on prior learning. If your school is following the content for each year-group in the National Curriculum, then this has been partly taken care of because the content in the National Curriculum has been broken down by year-group with progression in mind. The PLAN Progression in Knowledge and PLAN Progression in Working Scientifically Skills documents give an overview for subject leaders of the progression of both the substantive and disciplinary knowledge in the Statutory Framework and the National Curriculum. However, to complete your long-term curriculum map, the sequencing of the topics within each year-group needs to be carefully considered and a rationale for it established. For further advice on this, see our Sequencing Science Topics document.

You then need to be clear about the specific content that your children will learn within each topic in each year-group. The PLAN Matrices give clear guidance on the content to be covered within each topic in each year-group in the National Curriculum, including how that learning fits with the prior and future learning. The PLAN EYFS Matrices use the statements in Development Matters and identify the foundational experiences/knowledge of science within them that children need in order to be well-placed to access the National Curriculum at Key Stage 1. If your school uses these documents, then you should indicate that in your policy to explain the specific content taught in each topic and how your curriculum has been designed to ensure that it is taught in an appropriate sequence to build on prior learning.

You may also want to include in your policy some information about how the curriculum has been developed to meet the needs of your specific pupils. For example, you might wish to include more about healthy living, sustainability or climate change etc. You might want your children to become more aware of aspects of science in the local area or the local community. You might want to provide them with additional experiences such as trips or external visitors. You might want to ensure that a diverse range of scientists are represented in it.

How does the science teaching and learning look in practice?

In this section of the policy, you would state clearly how the science is taught in your school, so the teaching can be monitored and teachers held to account. This is what Ofsted refers to as 'implementation'. This could include some or all of the following.

  • Timetabling Is science taught weekly? For how long? You may wish to review the Association for Science Education's Best Practice - Timetabling Primary Science.

  • Practical work/Scientific enquiry/Working scientifically Are teachers expected to teach the science skills explicitly during practical work and ensure that children can identify them? How do teachers ensure that children are aware that they are carrying out scientific enquiry and its type? You may wish to refer to the PLAN Types of Scientific Enquiry - Definitions, our Using the 10 Science Skills for Planning and Assessment document or our webinar 'Scientific Enquiry/Working Scientifically: Same or Different?'.

  • Outdoor learning Are all year-groups expected to do science learning outside? What is studied outside through the year? You may wish to review our Outdoor Learning in the National Curriculum document.

  • Resources Where are the resources located and how do teachers access and return them? What resources are available? What is the procedure for teachers requesting additional resources?

  • Health and safety Most schools are members of CLEAPSS as their local authority pays for membership.

  • Recommended teaching strategies/websites You may wish to review the website suggestions for teachers on our website.

  • Children recording their learning Are the children expected to record in their individual books for each lesson? Presentation in books should be in line with other subjects, so you may wish to refer to your presentation policy if you have one. Do children record their learning verbally? If so, what app is used?

  • Teachers recording evidence of learning Are teachers expected to gather evidence of learning to supplement the learning the children record? How is this stored – in a class book/floor book, on lesson plans, on flipcharts, using an app such as Tapestry or Seesaw?

  • Marking Teachers should mark in accordance with the whole-school marking policy, unless otherwise directed in this document.

  • Displays Do all classes need a science display? What should be included? You may wish to review the Ogden Trust's How to... primary science displays document.

You will also need to set out how the school ensures that the curriculum is implemented in line with the policy. This would include setting out the monitoring procedures for science which might just be that it is monitored according to the school's monitoring policy, or it might set out specifically how this will be done for science i.e. what will be monitored and how frequently.

In this section, the school might also include information about how teachers are supported to improve their practice, in other words the expectations of science-specific CPD for the subject leader and teachers.

What difference does the curriculum make?

This is what Ofsted refer to as 'impact'. In this section of your policy, you would set out how your school will assess what difference the curriculum makes for your children. It would include how your teachers will assess the children, how they will record their judgments, and how their assessment judgements will be moderated.


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