Q3. How are working scientifically and working mathematically embedded in the school’s science and maths curricula? How often do science lessons include hands-on activities?
Why this is important
According to Ofsted, science achievement was the highest in schools where pupils could get involved in the entire scientific process of an investigation.68
“Working mathematically” can be summarised by the aims of the National Curriculum for Key Stages 1 and 2, where students should70:
- become fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics
- be able to reason mathematically by following a line of enquiry, conjecturing relationships and generalisations, and developing an argument, justification or proof
- be able to solve problems by applying their mathematics to a variety of routine and non-routine problems.
A hands-on approach to mathematics is endorsed by Ofsted as good practice, noting that successful schools “ensure consistent approaches and use of visual images and models that secure progression in pupils’ skills and knowledge lesson by lesson and year by year”.71
Ideas for improvement
To find out more about hands-on science in their school, you may like to ask the following questions of the senior leadership team:
- Do teachers have sufficient equipment and access to outdoor environments? (See the resources section for more information). If not, how can this be built into future budgets and strategic plans?
- Are teachers able to access enough professional development to improve their science and maths pedagogical content knowledge (see the teaching section for more information)?
- How much time is allocated to hands-on science in the school timetable and is this sufficient?
Teachers’ low confidence and incomplete subject knowledge can affect the type and quality of hands-on experiences pupils get:
- attempting only the most simple activities and using only apparatus that is unlikely to go wrong
- relying on pupils to follow instructions, reducing the need for teacher intervention.74
Subject leaders and teachers may like to look at the following:
- Wellcome’s study on the deployment of science and maths leaders gives case studies which discuss how hands-on science is taught in different models of subject leadership
When reviewing planning, subject leaders and teachers might look for ways to strengthen hands-on learning and enquiry. Resources from the Primary Science Teaching Trust and the National STEM Centre may be useful.
Other questions in Curriculum
- Q1. How are the school’s science and maths curricula developed to provide pupils with a rich and broad learning experience?
- Q2. How much time is spent teaching maths and science and how frequently? Does this differ across different age groups?
- Q4. How are the science and maths curricula enriched? What extracurricular opportunities are available for pupils?
- Q5. How does the school aid with transitions between phases of education in regard to science and maths?