maintaining and developing scientific enquiry in the new curriculum

Primary, secondary and special educational needs schools working together

The initial focus of the project was on developing a shared understanding of ‘Working Scientifically’ within the new National Curriculum for science. The project involved schools in a pre-existing network consisting of a secondary Science College Academy, a cluster of local primary schools and a special school. Three strands emerged; the first to develop a common set of assessment criteria for Scientific Enquiry; the second to focus on language used across phases particularly relating to science investigations and enquiry; the third strand explored the potential for developing ideas for investigations similar to those used in the ‘Mythbusters’ TV series. The strands were brought together through science fair activities and a final celebration event during which children designed and carried out their own investigations and presented their findings to others.


  • To enable teachers to have a shared cross phase understanding of Science Enquiry
  • For teachers to have opportunities to share good practice
  • As a cluster, to produce written criteria for the assessment of Science Enquiry
  • To provide opportunities for primary students to experience secondary settings
  • To improve provision of equipment and resources
  • To develop literacy and numeracy skills and key skills for learning


Project lead: Anna Pinto, The Kingswinford School, Dudley

After initial discussions, the teachers involved divided into three groups the work on the three strands of the project.

The Assessment Group focussed on taking the KS1 and 2 curriculum and produced common levelled assessment criteria, which linked to the original focus of the project. These criteria could be used by teachers and students to assess performance and for students to see what they needed to do to make further progress.

The Literacy Group focussed on this as it became obvious that the language used with students was impeding their progress and there was not always consistent use of the same words in primary and secondary School. The use of words (like control variables, hypothesis, etc.) was inconsistent across different schools. The use of the language in GCSE Controlled assessment and the command words from the AQA examination board were studied. This allowed the primary school teachers in particular to see the new requirements. For example – control variables has replaced the phrase ‘fair testing’. A keyword list with simple definitions for KS1 and 2 were produced for students and teachers to use. This allowed the secondary staff in particular to see the kind of language students were using at local primary schools, so it could be shared with secondary science staff. Definition posters or mats were produced mapping definitions with progression from KS1, KS2, KS3 and KS4. These have allowed staff and students in all schools to use common language pertaining to investigations in science.

The ‘Mythbusters’ Group took their inspiration from the US TV programme. They produced an ideas pamphlet with investigations/misconceptions to inspire students who may not necessarily enjoy science. For example – “Does eating cheese before bed give you nightmares?” Students were encouraged to think of their own hypothesis to test which would inspire them and provide a fun element. This seemed a fun way to engage students who did not necessarily enjoy Science, but might have always wondered if something was true. The disengaged students would be using scientific investigative skills, without necessarily seeing it as “Science.” The scientific process of how to do an investigation would underpin their own myth they wanted to test and be their focus.

The outcomes from all three strands contributed to the planning and organisation of science fairs competitions in the primary schools during which students designed and carried out their own investigations. School winners then took part in a final celebration event in the secondary school.


  • Teachers felt that the project had given them a better understanding of scientific enquiry and the expectations of Working Scientifically in the new National Curriculum
  • Teachers valued the opportunities to share good practice across phases and appreciated the resources developed to support them, particularly the advantages of having a common set of criteria to assess science enquiry
  • Students enjoyed the science fairs and were able to achieve satisfaction from working on more open-ended investigations



Find out more about this project by completing the form below and a member of the Primary Science Teaching Trust team will get back to you.