Ark Pioneer Academy

A discussion about the impact of Science Mastery with James McCarville, Ark Pioneer VP

A discussion about the impact of Science Mastery with James McCarville, Ark Pioneer VP

Ark Pioneer is a Science Mastery pilot school and started the pilot in 2019. We spoke with James McCarville, Vice Principal at Ark Pioneer, the line manager of science and science teacher.

Science Mastery has allowed us greater consistency and quality of teaching due to its rigorous curriculum. It allows teachers to have more time for intellectual preparation, making the adaptations for SEND pupils, EAL pupils, and low prior attaining pupils – so all pupils can make substantial progress.”

Consistency of teaching & co-planning

The science department’s co-planning doesn’t focus on what they are teaching but on how they teach it.

All of our science teachers know the data, exemplars and misconceptions, so most of their time is spent making the adaptations.” says James McCarville, Vice Principal.

Advice for teachers starting their Science Mastery journey

Starting in September, at induction, we always have to return to big-picture ideas. Looking at the curriculum map from year 7 all the way to year 11, the sequence is quite helpful to look at this time of the year. But when you’re in the nitty gritty, looking at what you teach in the next four weeks, individual-level unit documents, overviews, lesson objectives, and common misconceptions are handy. The PowerPoints have a notes section with teacher exposition; there are so many ways to adapt these resources for the pupils. At different times of the year, you’d use various documents.” explains James McCarville.

Science mastery supporting non-specialist teachers

According to James, the unit prep booklet is vital as it makes teaching that unit much easier, especially if a teacher needs to develop their confidence. Common misconceptions and how to avoid them also help build teacher subject knowledge. For example, as a Key Stage 4 teacher, seeing mark schemes and comparing them to a pupil's work is quite helpful. It has proven robust for Ark Pioneer pupils and their staff, says James, primarily if they haven't taught GCSE or gone through the examiner's reports.

The power of PD (professional development)

James explained how Science Mastery provides Ark Pioneer with a flexible and customisable approach to PD: “We understand how best to use formative assessment and how best to use the 'fix its', being proactive on how to adapt it for the pupils in front of you. Those sessions have been beneficial. Beyond that, we also have drop-in support; we've had our in-school visits and lots of help from Science Mastery as and when you need it. Science Mastery provides a broad scope of many different training areas, so you can dip in when it's useful for your team.”

Impact on teaching and student learning

James thinks that small things like ‘science in the news’, ‘scientist in the spotlight’ and similar features in the Science Mastery curriculum have a significant impact because they allow students to see how what they are learning today relates to a wider context, a particular career path, or current events. The Science curriculum begins by inspiring students to have ambitious goals and develop a love of science.

You also see a lot of impact immediately because of the low stakes, formative, diagnostic questions which allow pupils to build confidence quickly.” James told us.

James added: “One of the most powerful things Science Mastery allows you to do, is that no matter what your starting point, no matter what your attainment group is, all pupils can feel success in science – something that I haven’t experienced in other schools.”

James has also witnessed consistency between how Ark Pioneer teaches science and maths. He uses an example of rearranging equations in Year 10 physics and how they do that the same way as Mathematics Mastery does to encourage cohesion. Another example he thinks of is around some of the graph skills in Key Stage 3 and how Ark Pioneer taught them in the science curriculum before Mathematics Mastery did, and the consistency has helped the mathematics department as well, all of which lends itself to making a powerful impact across the board and also ensuring pupils are more ready for GCSE then they have ever previously been.

Promoting literacy

"There is a lot of literacy in the science mastery curriculum as well, which has a big impact on pupils' confidence and the confidence of science teachers to teach literacy. Science mastery pushes way beyond the keywords area and provides a scaffold for how you could write like a scientist. The 'what if' activities allow students to see how they apply the activity to different contexts, a skill that pupils across the country cannot do. They have been doing it since year seven, and it's become routine for them, which is great."

Encouraging Early Career Teachers

James also points out that Science Mastery has allowed the progress of Ark Pioneer’s Early Career Teachers across all departments. Ark Curriculum Plus development and coaching is something everyone benefits from, and there’s something about the rigour of the Science Mastery curriculum that allows their Science teachers to progress that little bit faster.

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