Improving Primary Science – responding to the latest EEF report

By Tanya Shields posted 29-11-2023 14:41


 We welcome the publication of the EEF’s long-awaited report on Improving Primary Science. Science is a core subject, alongside English and Mathematics although in my opinion it doesn’t enjoy the same focus in most settings. Until now, primary practitioners have only been able to refer to secondary guidance, which is based on secondary research and has limited transferability to the primary setting. Having a document that focuses on good primary science and how it can be achieved can only be a good thing. 

As with all EEF guides, the report is evidence based, easy to read and comes with a downloadable poster summarising the six key recommendations and additional tools to support the implementation of change. 

Examples and exemplification 

What I particularly like is how each recommendation is broken down and exemplified – so a teacher wanting to know how to support their pupils to use scientific language to describe their ideas gets a vignette, with further explanation and examples. Explorify’s vocabulary lists would also be useful here – subdivided by year groups and grouped by topic, you can easily identify the age-appropriate vocabulary that your class need for their next science topic.  

Having the correct vocabulary is only one part of helping pupils to explain their thinking. It’s a start, but they also need opportunities to talk, share ideas and refine their thinking. Again – Explorify has a range of tools (such as ‘Odd One Out’) to help prompt discussions in science. The guidance videos on how to develop thinking, speaking and listening skills are a great resource for sharing with colleagues to help grow their expertise. 

Working scientifically is such a big topic, it could almost have had a report on its own. The seven-step model included in the additional tools provides a useful framework – perhaps a starting point for staff discussion?   

Linking science to relevant real-world context is key to our work at STEM Learning. Our STEM Ambassadors help teachers support their pupils in seeing how what they learn in school can be applied outside the classroom. What’s better than hearing from someone doing the job about how science helps them to be a better construction worker, zookeeper, farmer or firefighter? 

Assessment is another enormous area. All teachers strive to ensure that we’re discovering our pupils’ starting points, what theyve learned and helping them to take ownership of their learning and respond to the feedback they receive. But this relies on us understanding prior misconceptions as well as being confident in recognising what has been understood and how to report that. 

Developing teachers, supporting pupils 

Finally, we come to professional development, its role in strengthening science teaching and the impact this has on pupil outcomes. Perhaps Im biased, because this is such a big part of what we do, working closely with primary science leads, but I would love to see this area of support increase. The goal should be for every science leader to receive professional development in their role and dedicated leadership time in which to implement the ideas and skills gained. Check out our primary CPD here – most of which is subsidised. 

Were really excited to see the impact of the report, and hope that the guidance prompts reflection and refinement of the practice going on across the sector, so that more science leads are supported, and more children experience the best primary science available.




30-11-2023 14:18

Also check out PLAN vocab,Investigative science ...brill again for supporting curriculum development

30-11-2023 14:15

For in-depth discussion with authors please visit the ASE annual conference at the University of Northampton. Also conference has a primary day with lots of opportunities to attend cpd and interact with those at the forefront of primary's brilliant!