Most primary classes 'get less than two hours of science a week'

19th September 2017 at 00:02
Three in 10 primary teachers did not receive any support to teach science last year, according to Wellcome Trust study

Many UK primary schools are teaching science for the equivalent of less than two hours a week, according to a study.

A report commissioned by the Wellcome Trust argues that the subject is not being given enough priority or time by most of the nation's primaries.

Wellcome also identified a number of barriers to teaching science in primary schools, including a fear among teachers that children would ask a question they would not know the answer to, and a belief that science is messy, expensive, time-consuming and/or reliant on lots of heavy facts.

Research carried out by CFE Research and the University of Manchester calculated that, on average, primaries dedicated an hour and 24 minutes of regular classroom time each week to science.

The amount increases as pupils get older and move up through school.

On average, across all primary school year groups, 58 per cent of classes did not get two hours of science a week, the report concludes.

It says that once additional activities are included – such as school science weeks, or science-related school trips – the subject is taught, on average, for the equivalent of one hour and 42 minutes a week.

On this measure, 54 per cent of primary school classes did not get the equivalent of two hours' science education a week.

The figures are based on two surveys of teachers, including one of staff who led on the subject for their school.

Teachers 'lack support'

In the poll of primary teachers alone, 34 per cent said their school had provided them with access to science lessons and other materials in the past 12 months, while 31 per cent said they had received coaching or mentoring from the science leader at their school.

But three in 10 said they had not received any support for science teaching in the past year, while just 3 per cent said their school had given them access or time to network with teachers from other schools about science.

The study was published to mark the launch of Explorify, a new free digital resource for school science.

Hilary Leevers, head of education and learning at Wellcome, said: "Right now, science isn't prioritised enough in most primary schools and not enough time is being devoted to the subject.

"Wellcome recommends a minimum two hours of science teaching a week, and we're looking to support teachers to achieve this.

"Good science teaching is about encouraging pupils to start thinking like scientists, and provoking their curiosity.

"Explorify is free and easy to use, and requires almost no preparation. It relies on sparking questions and conversations among pupils and developing thinking skills through creative activities.

"These skills are not only great for science but also benefit literacy, numeracy and life-long learning, too."

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