The Science department at Beauchamps High School is fully cognizant of the capacity for a science education to develop and extend a student’s thinking skills; to stretch students into realms of abstract reasoning; and to enhance a student’s ability to critically evaluate information, unlike any other discipline.
We aim to raise the cognitive abilities of our students by introducing them to concepts and theories that are often uncommon to them and by getting our students to apply their learning to novel situations. We ask our students to derive their own understanding, continuing the lineage of great scientists who before them did likewise. And we train our students to be mathematically literate within a scientific context.
We begin Year 7 with foundational concepts that are largely concrete in nature. Students are able to find out about the functioning of the human body and begin to explore the complexity of our anatomy that would otherwise be unavailable to us. They begin to learn about the scientific process through experiments in chemistry and start to become familiar with atoms and the periodic table. Experimentation is continued in physics where students work with circuits and discover relationships between physical phenomena.
Our Year 7 curriculum is deliberately in line with the new GCSE so that we can ensure our students are specifically focussed on the knowledge and skills they need to succeed when they reach Key Stage 4.
Students are assessed through brief end of unit tests, approximately every 3 weeks. We found that large end of unit tests were unnecessarily burdensome and led to a low frequency of assessment data. We moved to smaller, more frequent assessment to improve our students’ wellbeing and to provide more precise information about student progress.
In Year 8 we continue the process started in Year 7. However, there is a larger emphasis on numeracy and familiarity with equations, in preparation for Year 9.
Students continue to learn three of the natural sciences and again the curriculum is designed to be in line with the new style GCSEs.
Year 9 – introduction to Key Stage 4
We begin formally teaching the GCSE to year 9. Under the new GCSE system, we found there was little time to fit in the entire course and to adequately revise content with students. We therefore streamlined the GCSE course for year 9 students, teaching core lessons and concepts within each unit.
We continue to increase the familiarity students have with mathematical problems. We reintroduce formulae and methods for manipulating them and we introduce numerical prefixes while learning how to deal with unit conversions.
Students are introduced to GCSE style examination questions in most lessons or extended writing questions, designed to improve overall comprehension of the lesson and to develop our students’ abilities to write at length.
Year 10 and 11 - Key Stage 4
We encourage students to take ownership over their learning and revision; we are exposing students to exam questions regularly; and we are removing the burden of lengthy end of unit examinations by having smaller more frequent tests.
In Year 11 we aim to finish the course by around February which affords us the chance to return to earlier units and begin revising content in lessons. We have produced many resources that we use to focus our revision. We aim to secure knowledge across all units and to ensure students have revised the core vocabulary sufficiently to be able to communicate their answers using appropriate technical language. At the top end we steer revision towards mastery of the content as well as mastery of extended written responses using walking-talking style delivery.
Sixth Form – Key Stage 5
All Key Stage 5 courses begin with a short period of introductory lessons, aimed at informally assessing KS4 baselines for the various areas that will be covered within the A-Level courses and front-loading with foundational skills that will be essential throughout the course, particularly in the field of practical techniques at a more advanced level than had been needed in KS4. We now have the first cohort who have sat the reformed GCSE exams in science and we are finding the majority of those students are more prepared for the transition to A-Level content than in previous cohorts who had sat the old-style GCSE, especially where controlled assessment grades boosted exam grades up to the entry requirement for the course. As such we have been better able to focus on a problem-solving based approach, where students are already familiar with the basics of the core content, they are able to move on more quickly to answer A Level style questions on this content.
A proportion of the course is dedicated to learning through investigation, students are required to demonstrate their practical competence by completing a range of practical tasks, and teachers assess this in accordance with a set of criteria that has been agreed across exam boards and subjects. There are a number of ‘required practical tasks’ that upon successful completion a student will have demonstrated all the assessed criteria, however the rationale for this model of assessment of practical work is to ensure that investigative and practical tasks are frequent and integral to the teaching of topics.
Exam question practice is frequent in our A Level science lessons, students become familiar with the types of questions they could be asked in exams and this is followed up with sharing of mark schemes and examiner comments/reports in order for students to gain from that advice. Each topic is followed up by an end of topic test, which is centrally tracked. As the reformed A Levels have now run for two full cycles we are able to use past exam questions from the new exams, which increases the validity of these assessments and is better suited to informing predictions.
Homework and extra-curricular
We use our VLE to provide resources for our students to revise from. We also subscribe to an online textbook to ensure all of our students are able to access the full curriculum at home. This is across Years 7-11.
We use a system for homework called educake. We use this in order to give the students ample opportunity to become familiar with exam questions and to regularly recall the information they have learnt in lessons. We are trying to improve the recall speed of our students and to help them have the information they need readily available when they are asked to apply it to new situations. Educake enables us to track student performance and allows us to identify precisely the areas students need most support with. It is used by teachers to respond to issues and misconceptions from homework, within lessons.
Educake has been an excellent learning tool as students are shown the answers to questions they answered incorrectly. Many of our students go into lessons using information they have discovered through educake. We have received lots of positive feedback from students and we have seen a significant increase in the amount of homework being completed since we introduced educake to our students.
We hold a STEM club after school on Thursday. We are currently taking part in the Formula 1 in schools challenge. We have a range of ages in attendance including a VI Form student who assists with the CAD elements of the design process. Students are designing the front wind and nose piece for a vehicle which will be tested in a wind tunnel. The regional finals are being held at the end of January, and there is potential for us being able to attend and race the car there.
We also run a Chess and Scrabble club each lunch time for all year groups which is attended by around 30 students.
We have a healthy number of students go onto A-Level to study the sciences showing we prepare them well for further study. We also have a large number of our A-Level student go on to study sciences at university.
Through our teaching we try to instil in our students a love of nature and a desire to be inquisitive. Our use of modern techniques to assess students and support them with revision is producing some truly independent learners.
Our extracurricular STEM activities have also been successful with many of our teams being awarded for their efforts in projects such as the Ford Car Challenge.