Posted on 12th June 2023

Finding the optimum: Ofsted Science Subject Report

2:00 PM, 17th March 2023
Finding the optimum: Ofsted Science Subject Report

Finding the optimum: Ofsted Science Subject Report

In February, Ofsted published their review into primary and secondary science education as part of the subject report series. Here, we summarise the key findings from the report and look at how the Science Mastery programme aligns with it.

Q: What are the key findings of the report?

A: The review found a number of strengths and areas for development at a national level. The greatest strengths were that most schools are following a science curriculum that is at least as ambitious as the National Curriculum and where practice was very strong, students were able to make connections between different areas of science and view science as a discipline rather than a collection of isolated facts. The three key areas for development were found to be:

  1. disciplinary knowledge is prioritised less than substantive knowledge
  2. teachers’ opportunities for subject and pedagogical knowledge development are inconsistent and episodic
  3. covering content is prioritised over learning and retention

Q1: Ofsted say disciplinary knowledge needs to be given more consideration. How does Science Mastery approach the teaching of disciplinary knowledge?

A: Disciplinary knowledge refers to the components of practical, enquiry and maths skills that students need to have in order to ‘do’ science, as opposed to the substantive knowledge that is the established facts we want students to learn.

Disciplinary knowledge is at the heart of science and at the heart of the Science Mastery KS3 curriculum programme. We’ve broken down all the disciplinary knowledge that students need for KS3 and KS4 into 100 component skills. These are mapped across all our units so that students meet each component skill at least 3 times and across different contexts. They are also assessed using diagnostic questions in our mastery quizzes and competency frameworks.

We also have designated skills lessons in the context of a unit for skills such as identifying variables and using different methods of sampling, as well as our range of Maths in Science lessons, which use the best practice from Mathematics Mastery to support teachers to confidently improve students’ maths skills when they are needed.

Our practical activities are accompanied by practical guides and integrated instructions to help teachers and students make the most out of practical time, with guidance around the skill focus of each activity.

See a sample pack of our practical activity resources.

Q2: Ofsted say subject professional development for teachers is inconsistent and often not aligned to the curriculum. What is the Science Mastery approach to professional development?

A: Here at Science Mastery, we believe that teachers are the best resource for other teachers.

Guidance and suggested exposition - written by brilliant teachers – is provided with every lesson. This includes common misconceptions, likely answers from students, questions to ask and the deeper science story behind concepts. Teachers have subject and pedagogical content knowledge at their fingertips as and when they need it.

Another part of professional development that we think is invaluable is co-planning, where teachers work together to consider the processes that underpin great planning. It allows teachers to gain expertise rapidly from colleagues and gives them the chance to think about where they want their students to get to and the best way of getting them there.

Our unit preparation booklets - also written by experienced teachers – help to structure conversations and planning time and help teachers to engage with the key knowledge, skills and possible misconceptions of an upcoming unit.

See a sample unit preparation booklet.

Q3: Ofsted say that in many schools covering content is prioritised over learning and retention. What is Science Mastery’s view?

A: There are so many different (and equally fascinating) areas of science. Trying to fit in all of KS3 and KS4 science is a puzzle where there are 6.022 x 1023 solutions each involving things being condensed, missed, or set as homework! There is so much content to get through.

Teachers are best placed to make these tricky timing decisions for the students we have in front of us. The Science Mastery curriculum programme gives teachers as much support as possible to make those decisions. We provide a long-term map of all our lessons and how they might fit into a standard academic year; then Heads of Department and teachers use their own experience and the needs of their own students, alongside our guidance, to decide which lessons or knowledge points may need more or less time.

Using our diagnostic pre-unit quizzes helps teachers to work out where their students’ gaps are and whether or not certain themes need to be revisited, as well as our end of unit mastery quizzes so that teachers can plan their reteach in response.

All of this sits under the Science Mastery 5 year map, which is grouped into the 14 ‘Big Ideas’ of science. This ensures that key content is interleaved and built on, so that students can hook new learning onto existing schema to create the bigger picture, rather than learning a vast array of independent new facts.

Q. Ofsted say that secondary science should build on what pupils learned in primary school, and not simply repeat it or assume that pupils learned little. How does Science Mastery address this?

A: We know how vital it is that we build on pupils’ primary school experience. We must be aware of what they should have learned and assess this learning before next teaching. The Science Mastery curriculum programme has a curriculum map from early years to Year 11 to show how the big ideas of science develop. This outlines the prior knowledge students should have from primary school and our diagnostic pre-unit quizzes include the assessment of this knowledge.

Download our Science Mastery Secondary sample resource pack

Get a peek at what's inside the KS3 Science Mastery programme with these sample materials, including lesson slides, a Mastery Quiz and student activities.
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