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National Curriculum reform: KS4 Science

  • The draft KS4 Science curriculum has a much broader and very detailed range of topics than the current version. The content covered is very specific and generally quite complex, although the topics proposed seem to be relevant to students' experience and overall quite interesting.
  • The proposed science curriculum at KS4 separates the programmes of study into biology, chemistry and physics. However, it is good to see some areas of all three sciences appearing in these programmes of study, eg, in biology "the main parts of the ear and their functions; limitations and defects of the ear and ways of overcoming these, including cochlear implants (reference should be made to the wave model of sound)" and "measuring the effects of varying light intensity, the wavelength of light, carbon dioxide concentration and temperature on the rate of photosynthesis, including graphical treatment of the data and the relationships of these factors to the distribution of plants in different habitats"
  • At first glance, the chemistry programme of study seems to be the one that has introduced the fewest amount of changes compared to biology and physics. In physics, an emphasis that is not highlighted so strongly in the current curriculum is the concept of "changes and differences", mainly within the concept of energy. Within this area of the curriculum (which is also emphasised in the proposed KS3 Science curriculum) we find opportunities to develop numeracy in statements like "quantitative calculations of such transfers: of work done; as electrical charge (charge x potential difference); heating and cooling as transfer of internal energy (mass x temperature rise x specific heat)". Another interesting addition (also found in the KS3 proposed curriculum) is the concept of relative velocity: "relative velocity, net velocity in head-on collision".
  • It is quite surprising to find this statement: "force as rate of change of momentum: Newton's Third Law" in the curriculum. Force as the rate of change of momentum is actually linked to Newton's Second Law. This statement is in the context of collisions, so the reference to Newton's Third Law could be relevant, but I find it a bit confusing to have it stated in that way.
  • The use of sensors has been confined to the physics programme of studies, where the only reference to it is: "laboratory and commercial uses of a range of electronic sensors: e.g. position and motion, light and temperature, sound and vibration, force and stress", but this should not prevent other departments from seeking opportunities to employ these powerful tools too.

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