Ladder of junior skills for juniors

9th May 1997 at 01:00

Ginn Pounds 31.45 plus. Teachers' Guide Pounds 8.50.

It's always exciting to open a new set of curriculum materials for primary science. Ginn's Star Science lower junior materials cover all aspects of the curriculum for Years 3 and 4, with 10 theme packs in all. There are photocopiable masters in the teachers' notes linked to the activities in the pupil books. These are interesting and varied, with suggestions for group discussions, paper-based activities and investigative work, which is well thought out though a little prescriptive.

Although links with the national curriculum are briefly described in the Teacher's Guide, the main thrust of the theme packs is based on two structures designed to ensure progression through the concepts of science and through the skills. The Star Science Skills Ladder is related to the three main sections of Sc1 and provides very useful support for progression. The themes can be covered in any order, but one route through the packs is suggested to ensure good progression in the skills.

The national curriculum fails to give a clear enough indication of progression within concept areas, so the provision of concept chains building up from these developed in the infant themes, is an excellent idea. Unfortunately they do not always work, some appearing clumsy and ill thought out. This somewhat fuzzy progression in the concepts covered may explain why assessment is less well supported in the packs than many teachers might wish for.

We are approaching the end of the moratorium on the curriculum and no doubt there will be changes. Any school adopting a new scheme needs to be sure that it will adapt easily to a new version.

Star Science has its own independent structure. It gives the skills of science an importance which is appropriate but not always recognised at a time when the emphasis is on content and testing.

The scheme provides support through photocopiable masters, and suggestions for classroom organisation and for schemes of work.

Teachers who are not confident about teaching science will find Star Science useful, while science co-ordinators may want to introduce it alongside some discussions about background science, differentiation and assessment.

As always, teachers will need to use their own flair and imagination as well as knowledge of the children in their class in supplementing and adapting the scheme to maximise its value in supporting science teaching.

Anne Qualter is science education lecturer and course director for the Primary PGCE at Liverpool University

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