Packing them in for primary science

28th August 1998 at 01:00
I don't expect these packages will be left stuck on the shelves,'' said science adviser Phil McGhee when he launched the North Lanarkshire primary science programme at a headteachers' conference at the end of last term.

As part of a new environmental studies initiative, the packages have been written by teams of secondary science and primary teachers. In accordance with 5 to 14 guidelines, the writers have set out a re-focused programme of topics at each stage and re-evaluated priorities in terms of pupils' maturity and prior knowledge.

Each topic pack lays out a complete programme for the appropriate stage, giving guidance on the order of teaching different areas. For example, in the Primary 4 to 6 pack, Forms and Conversion of Energy, straightforward sections on sound and energy come before more challenging work on heat and electricity. These then lead on to electrical circuits and magnetism, often not taught until P7.

Detailed plans for each sub-topic are provided, with teacher helpsheets and photocopiable pupil worksheets. Among the sections most appreciated by non specialist primary teachers will be the details of practical investigations which can be carried out using basic classroom resources, such as straws or tin foil.

The programme allocates 40 hours a year for P1 to P3, 60 for P4 toP 6 and 75 for P7. It will not necessarily be implemented in all schools in the same way, but Phil McGhee believes it would be to teachers' and pupils' advantage to deliver it on a regular weekly basis.

He stressed that through close liaison with secondary schools, the programme would "offer a consistent approach to science teaching which would ensure that all pupils would have a common exit point from P7 and starting point in S1".

Sixteen of the council's 26 clusters have agreed to take on the scheme, said Mr McGhee, and an in-service training programme of four evenings, delivered by the science adviser and the primarysecondary writing team, has taken place, using the resources as a basis.

Reactions from headteachers at the conference were very positive. Jane Liddell of St Edward's primary in Airdrie said "It's a very good framework and starting point'', but added that it would be "important to come back and evaluate it as time goes on''.

A number of heads expressed concern about the problem of teaching the programme to composite classes. The specific needs of small schools and composite classes have been earmarked as a priority for future consultation and development.

Packs on Pets and other Animals (P1) and Space (P7) have been distributed free to the 134 primary schools and 10 special schools in the area. P4-P6 packages - Classifications and Variety within Species, Forms and Conversion of Energy and On Planet Earth are on sale at a cost of Pounds 50 (Pounds 75 to schools outside North Lanarkshire). What Living Things Do (P7) and Energy and The Changing Seasons (P2) will be available in October and the full programme of 16 packs completed by the end of the year.

Phil McGhee reminded heads that, apart from at the initial writing stage, the programme has not yet been trialled and an on-going review would be essential.

Eleanor Caldwell

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