Is science being crowded out in primary school and how to help your child?

A focus on examinations and a school’s position in league tables has put pressure on Science lesson availability in English primaries, the chief Ofsted inspector says.

Amanda Spielman gave a speech to the Association for Science Education which said that weekly tests in English and Maths mean some teachers are “forfeiting a deeper education in Science and other subjects”.

She criticised schools which followed that narrow curriculum, adding: “Too few governing bodies look to understand curriculum quality or hold leaders to account for the curriculum beyond looking at test outcomes.”

Spielman went on to say that what’s needed is a focus on curriculum quality rather than ticking boxes.

A recent Ofsted study found that early exam preparation was taking place instead of primary school Science lessons!

Ms Spielman said that there had been a “continued narrowing” of the curriculum and highlighted schools’ “understandable desire” to do well in the English and maths SATs. That, she said, has been “squeezing the Science curriculum out.”

That could be detrimental when options for later study are being influenced in Key Stage 2, and not all primary schools have chosen to sit Science at the Key Stage 2 SATs.

The opportunity to study for more GCSE qualifications in Science is also dependent on predicted exam performance at the beginning of Key Stage 4, she warned.

If your child’s primary doesn’t offer Science at the Key stage 2 SATs, there are things you can do to help them catch up and turn them into junior scientists:

  • Play science-based games such as Foldit
  • Do some kitchen science – do a web search for ideas
  • Buy your child a science kit
  • Join a citizen scientist project, such as searching for stars in space or identifying plants
  • Visit a science centre or natural history museum
  • Buy them a microscope and let them view ordinary items like water or soil through it

What can I do to help my child?

Private tuition is just one way to help children gain a good grounding in Science and help keep their options open as they go through school.

Without studying the Sciences in class, primary pupils might find the idea of taking the subjects later on a little daunting. Private tuition can help a child to overcome what can be an understandable fear and helps them understand the different way of learning offered by Science practicals.

We’re great believers in that being able to carry out experiments, discussing and writing about findings can be just as effective as additional tuition in those early years. There should be an element of fun after all! Many pupils enjoy the practical side of Science and it’s a great way to engage and create genuine curiosity.

Back in the day, you know, before computerised everything, we’d have to spend hours sifting through several hundred pages of well-thumbed text books to help us study. These days there’s more information instantly available and at our fingertips than we can hope to consume!

A good example of fun Science can be found on Spacebound’s YouTube channel here. You can even have Science kits delivered to your door. See here for more information.

If you’re unsure of the best approach for your child, or it may be that you don’t have the time, or simply don’t feel confident to help your son or daughter with Science, please feel free to get in touch. We’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction for you and your child.

And if you think private tuition may be right for your child, we can discuss that too.

Meanwhile, here are links to some primary Science resources which you may find useful:


Note: MST is not associated with the above resources, does not endorse specific products and receives no recompense for mentioning products such as those above.