Science in Primary Schools is a research report based on data collected as part of the National Foundation for Educational Research Annual Survey of Trends in Education.
Sue Harris provides a selective overview of how primary schools are teaching science following the Dearing revision of the national curriculum, using data from questionnaires to headteachers and a small number of telephone interviews and visits to schools.
Harris identifies some key issues and relates them to her survey findings, illustrating these with examples from policy documents and her discussions with school staff.
Her preliminary review covers many of the criteria for good practice in science education identified in the 1985 Department for Education and Science policy statement for science teaching, with a few exceptions. For example, continuity and progression seem to be treated as synonymous and the principle of relevance and the notion of concepts in context are not discussed.
Although a constructivist model of learning is described and Harris talks of challenging and changing children's ideas, she does not specify how to do this.
The survey affirms what many probably already suspect, primary science education is generally developing in the right direction, but there are still weaknesses, as in some teachers' knowledge of science. The book is a useful overview of current primary science policies and practices.
Lynn Newton is senior lecturer in education at Newcastle University