Shauna O’Brien is Head of Secondary Science Mastery, a complete curriculum programme from Ark Curriculum Plus, launched in January 2022.
We are in the midst of a curriculum revolution. Ofsted, rightly I think, are focused on content and coherence. They’ll want to know what your curriculum intends to do, how well you put your curriculum plans into practice, and the impact of the science teaching on pupils. Many schools are taking a fresh look at their science curriculum with this focus in mind.
Here are four key questions that go to the heart of your curriculum. How well are you prepared for the dreaded ‘deep-dive’?
Here we have it, the big question on everyone’s lips. How do we go about taking the gigantic body of knowledge that is the secondary science curriculum and organise it in such a way as to give students the best possible chance of understanding, and remembering it?
We know that careful sequencing is paramount to great curriculum design. Knowledge is sticky. New learning attaches to pre-existing knowledge and builds upon it. Our role in curriculum design is to set out a logical journey upon which students embark to build on prior knowledge, and also to make those links explicit wherever we can. And that means not necessarily starting with the ‘easiest’ content first, but with the most foundational - that knowledge that will allow students to make sense of what comes next. This approach enables a progression of knowledge and skills such that eventually students’ science ‘schemata’ are rich and full of connections that they have built over time – we don’t want them seeing science topics as isolated chunks.
However, there is more than one way to skin a curriculum, as they say. So, how have you structured yours, and why?
This question takes the previous one and asks you to zoom in on a specific example. It’s testing the depth of thought that has gone into your sequencing decisions. How carefully have you considered the larger sequence of learning, say, over 5 years, for a big idea like ‘structure determines properties’? To what degree have you considered the sequence of learning within individual units, and within lessons? It's all well and good to give broad sweeping statements about your brilliant sequencing and curriculum organisation, but if you can’t back that up with concrete examples, it’s pretty meaningless.
It’s worth ensuring that teachers in your department are comfortable articulating the rationale for your sequence of learning and having some nice examples ready to exemplify your approach.
“May” have formed, the question says. But we know they’re there, right? Those flipping gaps. They’re always there, but now they’re bigger, wider, and harder to spot, because the students haven’t been in school. Each student has had a different experience at home.
So, how does your curriculum level the playing field? It’s important to take particular care to consider, a. how you determine and check for key knowledge/skills, and b. how you are systematically ‘fixing’. How are learners assessed during and after the lesson? How are you diagnosing those pesky gaps, and then what are you doing about them?
A hefty portion of the science teaching workforce consists of newly qualified and early career teachers. Even more experienced teachers will not be specialists in all of the many science topics, so for our subject especially it’s important to think carefully about how the curriculum supports teacher subject knowledge development and expertise.
What do you have in place for teachers to learn more about the topics they teach, and to learn from their more experienced colleagues?
Of course, the list of potential questions you might get asked relating to curriculum intent and implementation is much larger than this. We’ve created an Ofsted Preparation Guide to help you prepare for an inspection. Download the free guide to know what to expect on the day of inspection and how to prepare yourself and your team.
Access our guide to help you prepare for a visit from Ofsted. Including, what to expect on the day of inspection, how to prepare yourself and your team and video interviews from fellow teachers.