Today’s report looks at science education and draws on evidence from a sample of primary and secondary schools, gathered as part of routine inspections.
Inspectors found that science curriculums are improving and developing despite the lingering challenges of the pandemic. The science curriculum taught to pupils, including those with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND), is generally at least as ambitious as the national curriculum aims. This is a significant strength in science education in England’s schools.
However, the report notes areas where improvements still need to be made. In secondary schools, inspectors found that pupils sometimes lacked opportunities to take part in high-quality practical work. In contrast, there was a greater emphasis on practical work in primary schools, but not necessarily work that had a clear purpose in relation to the curriculum. In a small number of schools visited, pupils were not retaining the science knowledge they had learned.
Ofsted Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said:
A good science education can open the door to some of the most interesting and socially valuable pathways in life. So I’m encouraged to see the progress that has been made in science teaching, despite the pressures brought by the pandemic.
I hope that this review helps subject leaders and teachers to construct a challenging science curriculum with relevant and useful practical work.
The report makes a series of recommendations for how schools and other organizations can make sure that all pupils leave school with an authentic understanding of science, including:
- developing a curriculum which identifies and sequences the knowledge pupils need, especially to work scientifically
- providing all pupils with opportunities to take part in high-quality practical work that has a clear purpose in relation to the curriculum
- building enough time into the curriculum for pupils to learn and remember key knowledge
- initial teacher education providers supporting trainee teachers to develop their knowledge of what science is and the methods it uses, and how to teach this
All inspections were carried out between September 2021 and July 2022.