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Primary schools 'need specialist science teachers

Discussion in 'Science' started by flyuplife, Jul 7, 2010.

  1. flyuplife

    flyuplife New commenter

    Primary schools in England do not have enough
    specialist teachers to provide youngsters with a high quality science
    education, a report says.

    A Royal Society study of UK science and maths teaching for
    five to 14 year olds said every school should have a teacher with a
    sound scientific background.

    The study said England's testing regime "stifled creativity"
    as teachers "drummed" facts into pupils' heads.

    The report also called for maths tests for 11 year olds to be

    Key Stage 2 tests in science, taken in the last year of
    primary school, have now been abolished and were sat for the last time
    by pupils in England in 2009.

    The Royal Society, which champions science in the UK,
    called for a move away from "teaching to the test", a major new drive to
    recruit specialist science and maths teachers, as well as a greater
    emphasis on practical work to help youngsters understand the subjects.

    The society found testing in England's primary schools became
    high-stakes when it was used by central government to compare schools
    and drive up standards.

    But the focus on targets had had "little effect" on pupils'
    results, with any improvement more attributable to "teachers becoming
    increasingly adept at, and focused on, teaching to the test".

    The study said this caught up with pupils when they went on
    to secondary school.

    "Their [pupils'] ability to perform in the tests masks an
    inadequate conceptual understanding of these subjects that is exposed at
    secondary level when science is disaggregated into biology, chemistry
    and physics."

    It went on: "Science is a practical subject and it needs to
    be taught and assessed as such and greater emphasis placed on building
    understanding of how science and mathematics work than on rote learning
    of 'facts'.

    "Achieving this depends on developing a workforce that is
    confident in teaching these subjects."

    Prof John Pethica, vice-president of the Royal Society, said:
    "Early education is a particularly formative time for young people,
    when they can either be inspired by the way that science helps them to
    understand the world around them, or switched off from exploring it.

    'Raising standards' "It is
    essential that we ensure that children have positive experiences with
    science education, from teachers that are qualified to provide it.

    "The UK government must increase the number of science
    specialist teachers at primary level to ensure that all children have
    the best start in science."

    Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the government would take the
    reports findings into account as it developed plans for curriculum and
    qualifications reform.

    "This government is committed to raising standards in maths
    and science - one of the main reasons we are not proceeding with the
    previous government's planned primary curriculum is that it risked
    moving away from traditional subjects like these," Mr Gibb said.

    "We also want to go further in recruiting excellent science
    and maths teachers and are looking at how we can encourage even more
    maths and science graduates to come into teaching."

  2. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    To be honest they don't need to teach science in primary. They should use the time to teach them to read, write and count! Plus teach them the metric system.

    There is nothing in the science curriculum that can't be covered in ks3 and ks4!
  3. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    Hear hear.
    Besides if secondary schools don't have enough specialist science teachers, what chance to primaries have of getting them?
    We have a lot of feeder primaries and the experience of science that our kids come to us with is hugely varied, so much of year 7 is spent getting them to the same place anyway, by year 8 our middle groups have kids who had level 3, 4 or 5 at KS2, so it really counts for little to be honest.
  4. paulie86

    paulie86 New commenter

    As someone who teaches primary science (although in a middle school not a primary) I completely disagree. If taught properly it can be ace. Although our science NCT results were always very patchy! We teach science as science all the way through. In my experience science in primary schools is too literacy heavy with not enough practical work. For some reason lots of primary trained teachers are scared of teaching science and so consequenntly don't teach it well.
  5. My daughter would be gutted if she couldn't do science at KS2. She loves it.
  6. so would my son and he is in yr 1. Its one of his favourite parts of the week (along with playtime).
  7. That may be true (in your opinion), but primary school is where children develop their love of science so that they want to learn about it come KS3/4/5.
  8. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    When I was school I didn't have a single lesson in primary, it didn't stop my love of science or that of my contempories either - it's only since the advent of the National Curriculum that universities started to cut science departments such as physics as not enough were choosing to do it.
    Primary science may be fun, but it's not necessary for secondary school - learning to read and write and be numerate are.
  9. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    A single science lesson that is - I vaguely recall having a lesson one afternoon about the Charge of the Light Brigade (no it wasn't current affairs).
  10. Never thought of it from that perspective, Mangleworzle - sorry [​IMG] I guess that's just because I loved science at primary school (and secondary school... and university...) and I work with a lot of KS1 children who love science too. Being taught science by a science specialist won't do anyone any harm, surely?
  11. I am sure that Science teaching in priamry school can be brilliant and engender a lifelong curiosity in science. It can also hammer it into submission with all the 'writing'. Like Mangleworzle I learnt all my science in secondary school. My big gripe with Primary science is the misconceptions that are instilled in young minds e.g. I could not convince a boy that you don't get two worms if you cut one in half because 'my teacher told me'. The fact that I was now his teacher appeared not to have crossed his mind. An experiment I remember clearly from my schooldays is the collapsing can (so clearly, I can tell you it was blue and yellow!); when I started teaching I really looked forward to doing this demo. Imagine my disappointment when a child said 'oh, we've done this before' and my horror when he continued 'the vacuum sucks the side in'. I don't blame the teachers, they have to teach so many subjects but I don't think the National Curriculum has advanced Science achievement whereas the lsot time may have hindered the development of mathematical and literacy skills.
  12. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    No - of course not, it couldn't be anything but positive. The reality though is there are not really enough science specialists in many seconday schools to go round, so I can't see how primary schools are supposed to recruit them.
    I am KS3 co-ordinator in my school and our experience over the last 10 years since I've been at the school is that a childs experience of primary science is dependent on the teachers they have at primary. It varies from a good grounding by enthusiastic and knowledgeable teachers at one end to a bit of gardening, nature study and playing around with bulb and batteries making a lighthouse. With often only a hand-full of teachers in pmany rimaries, it can't really be any different.
    I would rather be able to assume that we can start from scrtach in year 7 than assume that the children are where they are supposed to be, though many invariably aren't.
    I am very pleased to read though that there are so many primary school children who like science so much. I am sure those teachers who enthuse these children about science would still do so through topic/project work if they had the time and freedom from the NC to do so.
  13. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    Isn't it a bugger when someone sums up what you mean so succinctly? Thanks johnsonro [​IMG]
  14. I could not disagree more!!
    Both of my boys are in primary school and adore science, even when the science is really simple. I teach science to secondary kids and can not imagine not only the increased work involved if kids came to me with no science knowledge, but where does the fire, enthusiasm, excitement come in to primary school if you cannot teach science.
    How awful for kids growing up in a world without science, as we say in my class " What in the world is not science?"
  15. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Well apart from 'nature studies' I went to primary school in an age where there was no science. As someone else had posted earlier. You go to do an experiemnet and half the class have 'already done it' but in fact have been so poor;y taught that they don't understand 1 thing about it or even worse have such misconceptions that you cannot shake them! It is my experience that in many primaries they cherry pick the exciting stuff but don't actually teach any real science!
  16. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    Exactly - now try to get them to draw or interpret a line graph "who has done this before?" - no response.
  17. I would love to move into KS2 area, I'm a KS3 specialist, have done GCSE but much prefer the KS3 classes. However no primary school will look at me even though apparently they now want science specialists, and I have taught other subjects and KS2 as well (joys of supply) and can do music and sport. And no secondary will want me as I've had to take a non-teaching job due to lack of supply and I'm now M3 -M4 and too expensive for a 'class-room teacher' when they can employ an NQT. Its all talk with no substance - come into teaching, theres a real lack of science teachers - biggest lie I was ever told.
  18. paulie86

    paulie86 New commenter

    You need a middle school! I love teaching KS2/3 its ace, you do have to be willing to teach additional subjects but in my school they are normally in KS2 but not always. I teach Science, Drama and RE across the Key Stages currently and love it!
  19. paulie86

    paulie86 New commenter

    Don't blame the primary schools. I went to our LEAs primary science meeting and the advisor was showing them how to do acids and alkalis with vinegar etc using plants for indicators! I had a right huff on!
  20. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    I can't understand how a primary can afford a science specialist unless they employ you to do a bit of science with each class in the school on the half days when their regular teacher has their PPA. Why science though, surely they would be better with say a specialist music teacher?

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