'Real' science

8th November 1996 at 00:00
From James D Williams.

The poor science deal for top juniors (TES, October 25) is not restricted to time allocation and facilities. Because of the lack of accommodation, facilities and science trained staff, pupils' experience of what science is as a subject will vary greatly. There is also a common view among secondary science teachers that pupils have done little to no science in their primary schools and we, therefore, "must start from scratch".

There is often a regression in pupils' knowledge and I am sure that this secondary attitude is a major cause. I would advocate more time for primary teachers to visit schools to which they are the main feeder, and to get to know the head of science and what sort of science pupils will be doing at key stage 3. At my own school, we are looking at ways of forging links to primary feeder schools so that they may share their knowledge and understanding of the pupils with us. Just as the jump from GCSE to A-level is a culture shock for pupils, so too is the jump from KS2 to KS3. An eye-opener for secondary staff is to teach a year 4 or 5 class in a primary setting. Having experienced just this when supporting a local primary school in its science and technology week, I was amazed at the level of pupils' knowledge.

A final problem is one of level awareness. I am not convinced that the primary level 4 in science equates to the secondary level 4 in science. This may be because of the scientist's notion of level 4 as opposed to the non-scientist or it may be due to the way in which courses in science at KS3 are designed, with many not assuming any prior knowledge, but there seems to be a real discrepancy in the notion of level attainment in pupils.

Perhaps the secondary sector should look more to what is happening in top juniors and learn from them.

Maybe we need to introduce our Bunsen burners, beakers and bottles gently by using familiar objects first of all; kettles, jars and spoons. Once again, however, it falls to letting primary teachers have more non-contact time to allow them to look, listen, learn and teach the secondary sector how we can best avoid the often negative change from classroom science to "real" science.

JAMES D WILLIAMS Head of science, The Beacon School, Banstead, Surrey.

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