In a system where so many incentives push primary schools to prioritise English and maths, science can often take a backseat.
But for Sarah Eames, science lead at Sandfield Close Primary School in Leicester, science should instead be seen as giving pupils another context for those subjects.
“We have really seized upon the fact that when you are teaching science, you are also doing literacy and maths, but it’s putting it into a real-life context for the children,” she says.
“Because they are emotionally involved themselves by getting to answer their own questions or trying to work things out that they thought of, it brings in literacy and numeracy, and it gives it a proper context and meaning for the children, so they want to do it.”
It is an approach that has been successful at the school, which was last year named Stem Primary School of the Year at the Enthuse Awards, held at the House of Commons.
At a time when schools are facing tight budgets, Eames says primary schools can do a lot with what they have got, saving bits of old carpet, plastic, wood and sponges that other people might have thrown away.
“I always say to teacher trainees, ‘As long as you have got some transparent plastic cups, there is a lot of science you can do.’”
What about the common fear among primary teachers that children will ask them difficult science questions?
For her, “the confidence comes with actually admitting you don’t know the answer”. An example came last week, when she asked her Year 2 class which out of a bat, a cat and an owl was the odd one out. It led to a discussion about whether bats have tails.
“At that point I just said, ‘I have no idea if a bat has got a tail or not,’ and I said, ‘Which person is going to actually go and find that out and tell me tomorrow whether a bat has a tail or not?’”
For those teachers needing a bit of support, she recommends a wealth of online resources, such as Explorify, a website launched by the Wellcome Trust last year with free resources for primary schools. She says that most of its activities need just five minutes’ reading to give teachers some confidence in the background and some of the questions they will need to prompt the children.
Eames also recommends that schools consider engaging with the Primary Science Quality Mark, which “gives you a licence to be able to do what you think is good for your school, but also to monitor it for its effectiveness and its impact”.
And her message for science leaders is not to fret if they don’t see change happen immediately. “Don’t be worried, as science leaders – it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s that gradual build up. And you have 100 per cent got to have your headteacher fighting for science.”