Talk about cycles. No, not life cycles - teaching cycles. I have now been teaching long enough to have "cycled" from rigid schemes of work to integrated topics and back again. Now, after seeing the profile of primary science being raised to equal status with English and mathematics as a core subject, it is in danger of slipping back to an "afternoon slot".
Did the decline begin when the subject was not tested at key stage 1? Yes, I know the sinking bananas of the 1991 SATs caused a problem, but the current culture of testing and targets has made some people value only those things that can be measured by standardised tests.
Can I make a plea for science at KS1? Please don't let us go back to the dusty "nature table" as the only evidence of science in infant school.
Recently the Association for Science Education completed a survey (Science and the Literacy Hour, 1999) that showed alarming trends. The time spent on science at KS1 had dropped considerably in the year 199798 and in many schools the subject had been taken off school's improvement plans and had no time allocated for in-service training or staff meetings. I have experience of many schools where the new, and very useful, Scheme of Work from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has been put aside unused, because there is no time for the teaching staff to consider how they could use it to improve classroom practice.
Come on, we can still do it. Some of us remember fitting food technology into a topic on wool just by making shepherd's pie! Where has the creativity gone? There are some great big books out there: Minibeast Encyclopaedia, Bean Diary, books about the body and many more. We can write reports, diaries and instructions to accompany science work. This is true "writing with a purpose" (remember that?).
Writing frames, as encouraged by the National Literacy Strategy, don't have to be used for sequencing events in a story: they are also great for reports on an investigation. How can you do that without using terms such as "and then", "next", "after that"?
In my own class science writing provided a boy who has special needs with a chance for a moment of glory last summer term. He and the classroom assistant made a snail home. This child had only just begun to read and was very reluctant to write any more than his name. However, he was eager to write a report on his work, and so produced the best piece of writing of his infant career. He also had a much-needed, huge boost to his self-esteem. Children need as wide an experience as possible, not just a quick session with the magnets in the afternoon when they are tired and the timetable has to compete with PE, history, geography, PSME, music, art, RE , ICT, old uncle Tom technology and all.
If any KS1 teacher is worried about the lack of science in their school I urge them to look at Rosemary Feasey's book Primary Science and Literary Links and the soon-to-be published companion book Numeracy Links (both published by the ASE). These offer many practical ideas for using science to deliver the required content of the literacy and numeracy hours.
Susan Lipscombe served on the Association for Science Education's primary committee for three years, and teaches at Broadfield Infant School, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire