Our response to Ofsted's 'Finding the optimum: the science subject report'

By Sarah Longshaw posted 03-03-2023 13:49


STEM Learning welcomes the publication of Ofsted’s ‘Finding the optimum: the science subject report’ which is based on the evidence from its routine inspections. In this article we’ve reflected on key themes within the report.

Our role is to support schools and staff on their journey – and we are pleased that our support has been acknowledged, along with the role that we and other subject associations play in helping develop teacher knowledge.

The report highlights that curriculums studied by most pupils, including those with SEND, are at least as ambitious as the national curriculum. It also recognises variation and acknowledges the importance of sequencing, progression, and assessment of both substantive and disciplinary knowledge. Yet, in the same way we that we, as educators must adapt our lessons to the needs of our students, so each setting will adapt its curriculum to best serve its pupils. In the best examples this includes time to cover and learn the content, and to align the sequencing of skill development with other subjects such as maths.

Science includes both substantive and disciplinary knowledge, the latter being associated with the carrying out of practical procedures. This varies between settings and also between phases - and that could have an impact on transition. Like subject content, practical work needs a distinct purpose and a clear understanding of the progressive development and assessment of skills. Perhaps it is not surprising, given the impact of the pandemic, that this is an area still requiring some development? What is also notable is the importance of science technicians, not just to the delivery of high quality practical experiences for secondary pupils, but for their support in the development of early career teachers and non-specialists.

It comes as no surprise to us that teachers with strong subject knowledge are able to give clearer explanations and to better connect learning. These teachers will also be well-placed to understand, anticipate and address misconceptions. This is why the subject specific CPD offered by organisations such as ourselves and the other subject associations is critical – particularly where we have shortages of subject specialists. Access to good quality teaching materials can also be a key factor in reducing teacher workload – again pertinent in the current climate.

Treating the curriculum as a dynamic document, able to be adapted over time, is essential; as is allowing subject leaders the time and opportunity to engage with this process. Sufficient curriculum time is also important – time for pupils not just to cover content but to truly embed and retain it, along with the mechanisms to assess that this is really happening. Similarly, the need to develop the pedagogical and subject knowledge of staff over time is also critical.

We have reflected on our offer, and how it aligns with the findings and recommendations in this report and have summarised how our it supports the areas highlighted in the report for both primary and secondary.

Read the primary summary here

Read the secondary summary here

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