This is an exceptionally comprehensive scheme of work consisting of pupil books A, B and C for Years 7, 8 and 9 respectively with accompanying teacher's resource books. There are also two ring-bound files with support and extension activities that provide differentiated resources in addition to those in the teacher's resource books. These are very comprehensive and include possible teaching strategies, desired learning outcomes, ideas for incorporating numeracy, literacy and ICT, classroom activities and homework sheets, pupil strategy setting materials and end-of-unit tests linked to national curriculum levels.
There are some very original and interesting activities here and I particularly like the flick books for states of matter work. The support pack offers a variety of ways to support pupils' learning such as writing frames, cloze questions and matching activities. The extension materials are equally comprehensive offering, for example, some challenging data handling exercises. The pupil books are well designed with attractiv double-page spreads, questions are integrated in the text and key words are highlighted in bold, cartoons are used extensively and there are some lovely wildlife photographs.
However, my major concern about these materials is that there is often simply too much text on the page and I wonder if this is linked with the worrying notion of progression offered in the publicity materials that "the Year 9 (Book C) features much more text on the page, with more advanced language and less reliance on diagrams". This is an extremely limited notion of progression, but it also seems to have infected the Year 7 and 8 materials. In many cases they are too reliant on text and some of the activity sheets for Year 7, for example, are positively uninviting. For poor to average readers these would offer immense challenges and rather than having calm in the classroom I suspect there might be a sense of frustration and failure unless the materials are extensively mediated by the teacher.
Finally, on a more general issue: a major claim of this scheme is that it will please "OFSTED inspectors because it closely matches the QCA Schemes of Work". This worries me. The QCA Schemes of Work are surely advisory. Are they now becoming the new standard, in addition to the national curriculum, against which schools will be inspected?
Ann Childs is a lecturer in science education at Oxford University Department of Educational Studies