Our aim as a department is to ensure all pupils studying science achieve a qualification in the subject, which allows them to take their next step in their education or training, or that students are prepared to transition into a new school where they can continue their studies. Our GCSE students work towards a double award qualification, equivalent to two GCSE’s. As a department we have chosen the AQA exam board and their Trilogy specification (www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/science/gcse/combined-science-trilogy-8464). This is a linear course meaning that pupils sit all of their exams at the end of the course. The final exams consist of six papers, each one hour and fifteen minutes in duration, with two papers each in biology, chemistry and physics. These examinations test pupil’s general subject knowledge but also require knowledge of how scientists know what they know and directly assess practical and enquiry skills. Practicals therefore form an important part of the curriculum, and we ensure that the 21 required practicals, set out by the Department for Education are embedded into our curriculum. Teaching the Trilogy specification also means that we can enter pupils for AQA’s Entry Level Science Award. This means that pupils who are not working at GCSE level by the end of year 11 have the opportunity to achieve a recognised qualification, which will allow them to progress on to a GCSE’s in the subject.
We have based our curriculum design on research carried out by the Association for Science Education (ASE). Their work (www.ase.org.uk/…big-ideas-in-science…/1working-with-big-ideas-of-science-edu…) stresses the importance of helping pupils to see science “not in terms of the knowledge of a body of facts and theories, but as a progression towards understanding key ideas – ‘big ideas’ – of relevance to students’ lives during and beyond school” . This focus on the big ideas in science is also being adopted by our examinations board with a stated aim of “teaching for understanding rather than fractured content”. To achieve this aim our curriculum is designed so that pupils study the same ten big ideas at both Keystage 3 and 4 so that through multiple interactions with the concepts they will deepen their understanding, and by connecting smaller more concrete ideas they will be prepared to tackle more complex, abstract concepts. The ten big ideas which form the basis of our curriculum are;
- Cells; organisms are organised on a cellular basis and have a finite life span
- Genes and Evolution; genetic information is passed down from one generation of organisms to another and the diversity of organisms, living and extinct, is the result of evolution
- Ecosystems; organisms require a supply of energy and materials for which they often depend on, or compete with, other organisms
- Matter; all matter in the universe is made of small particles
- Reactions; matter undergoes predictable chemical reactions
- Earth; the total amount of energy in the Universe is always the same but can be transferred from one energy store to another during an event
- Electromagnetism; the phenomena’s of electricity and magnetism are manifestations of a single electromagnetic force
- Energy; the composition of the Earth and its atmosphere and the processes occurring within them shape the Earth’s surface and its climate
- Forces; changing the movement of an object requires a net force to be acting on it
- Waves; objects can affect other objects at a distance
During the course of each academic year pupils will cover each topic over the course of three to five weeks depending on the particular topic, providing all students with opportunities to develop their skills and understanding of each key concept. Pupil’s progress in each area is mapped to a corresponding learning ladder which records their increasing of each big idea. Two additional learning ladders record pupils developing practical skills and understanding of the investigative process that underpins the development of accepted scientific theories.
During their time in assessment pupils will undertake one of three different assessments depending on their age and ability. AQA have produced assessments that assess whether pupils have mastered the skills and understanding required to progress from Keystage 2 to the Keystage 3 curriculum and similarly an assessment which looks at pupils readiness to progress to onto GCSE’s. For those pupils entering already working towards their GCSE’s there are a set of papers which allow us to assess their progress in each of the science subjects and to identify areas of strength and weakness, in order to tailor students learning towards achieving the best possible GCSE grade.
Head of Science