This week is being celebrated as British Science Week.
Time to put science on the map. No really. Primary science is weak at the knees and there is not enough science teaching going on – more of that later.
The UK’s biggest celebration of science is here and it’s here all week. Actually it’s a 10 day party and started last Friday at 1am.
British Science Week is run by the British Science Association and pro-actively promotes science, technology, engineering and maths, featuring entertaining and engaging events and activities across the UK for people of all ages.
Nice but what about STEAM? Come on BSA, get your act together and join the revolution of joined up thinking – you should be promoting this as STEAM not STEM! This makes the BSA look out of touch does it not?!
Anyway, British Science Week provides a platform to stimulate and support teachers and basically anyone to produce and participate in science-related events and activities in a cross-curricular way.
The British Science Association helps organisers plan by providing free activity and support resources and so nip onto their website to find out more. They’ve got activity packs, a poster competition and plenty more.
Why do we need a science week?
Hilary Leevers, Head of Education and Learning at Wellcome, says,
Right now, science isn’t prioritised enough in most primary schools and not enough time is being devoted to the subject. Wellcome recommends a minimum two hours of science teaching a week and we’re looking to support teachers to achieve this.
Science has fallen in status and according to the Wellcome Trust we jolly well need to revive it and reinvigorate it.
In their report Primary Science: Is It Missing Out? they say found that very few schools have access to high levels of science expertise and that strategic leadership for the subject is weak. Their research shows that “there is a distinct gap between schools that value and invest in science and those that do not.”
Science is a core and compulsory subject for all primary school pupils but it certainly doesn’t enjoy a high profile in some schools. The report found, “Schools said that their biggest need
is CPD that is current, cutting-edge, accessible and affordable, but most importantly subject-specific.”
The Welcome Trust makes some recommendations:
1. The UK should champion primary science
• Policy makers should ensure that education leaders at all levels are accountable for the provision and quality
of primary science teaching.
• School leadership teams (including governors and headteachers) should value and aspire to excel in primary science.
2. Primary schools should have access to science expertise
• Policy makers should require that all primary schools have, or have access to, science leaders with expertise
in primary science, and ensure that the resources and infrastructure to enable this are provided.
• Science subject leaders must regularly access high-quality continuing professional development (CPD) to ensure that their expertise is sustained.
• Class teachers must take responsibility for their professional development in science.
• School leadership teams should prioritise access to high-quality science-specific CPD.
3. Primary science should be well-resourced
• School leadership teams should use recommended benchmarks to guide their resourcing of science.
• Science subject leaders should have strategic responsibility for a dedicated science budget.
The Wellcome Trust say,
All pupils deserve to enjoy their science education and have access to rich practical experiences. They need to understand why science is important, so it is vital that schools are equipped with an inspiring workforce and are well-resourced. Enthusiasm will spread from leaders to teachers, to pupils and into the community.
In their 2017 ‘State of the nation’ report of UK primary science education, the Wellcome Trust say that expertise is lacking with only 5% of schools having a dedicated science teacher who takes science. There are differences between regions too,
Whilst half of all UK primary schools employ dedicated science weeks as part of their science teaching, they are typically used to support science teaching as additional delivery rather than a standalone activity. Perhaps surprisingly, science weeks are more common in Scotland as well as England given Scotland’s cross-curriculum teaching.
Help is available –
Wellcome’s tried and tested Explorify resource aims to remove barriers, boost teacher confidence and ignite or reinvigorate teachers’ passion for science. It provides us with creative ways to help our classes develop their problem solving abilities, life-long learning skills and creativity – all powered by scientific investigation.