Science – a curriculum giveaway

For those of you who don’t want to read the blather (though I think it might well be useful) and just want the curriculum document, scroll down to the arrow to find a Dropbox link.

The document linked below is the result of 25+ hours of work. It is 41 pages and 15115 words long. I share it in the hope that it might be useful to others. I bang on a lot about how excessive workload is undermining the profession, so I hope that sharing this curriculum document counts as an example of me putting my money where my mouth is. (I created it in my own time, and have taken only a limited payment from my school for the work done on the proviso that I can distribute it as I see fit. They kindly acquiesced.)

What I have attempted to do is to spell out in detail the knowledge to be taught, including the necessary vocabulary, for each science topic from year 1 to year 6. In addition, for each topic the relevant prior knowledge and vocabulary – gathered from previously taught topics – is listed. For example, the electrical circuits topic in year 6 has plenty of new knowledge and vocabulary to be taught, but much of the learning has already been covered in the year 4 unit on electricity (and in other topics). Here is the knowledge and vocabulary to be revised in the year 6 electricity topic:

In comparison, the new knowledge and vocabulary to be taught is less extensive:

Seeing the intended curriculum in this way serves a few purposes: most obviously, it links each topic to the rest of the science curriculum, but it also emphasises to teachers how much a given topic relies on previous learning (while not making the teachers search for this information).* Of course, this document is only intended to specify the ‘what’ of the science curriculum. As such, it is a relatively dry list of procedural and declarative knowledge; the document places no limits on how any school or individual teacher would teach the content.

As well as detailing the knowledge and vocabulary to be taught and revised in each science topic, I have added twelve ‘big ideas’ of science to the start of the document and shown how they link to each of the topics. Adam Boxer posted a thought-provoking blog-post on the way in which ‘big ideas’ can be superfluous or even limiting in secondary school science; however, I think the that the lack of science specialists in primary teaching lends genuine utility to this approach, as well as helping to define for children (and teachers) what constitutes chemistry, biology and physics; the addition of ‘earth science’ and its own ‘big ideas’ – while debatable – seems like a pragmatic addition that allows teachers to make explicit reference to (a) the links to geography, and (b) the way that the ideas of physics, chemistry and biology can overlap in areas of scientific study. Naturally, these ‘big ideas’ are easily removed from the document if they seem unnecessary to your setting.

The original document had images and diagrams added for each topic, ones that I think would be useful to the teachers in planning and delivering lessons; I have removed these from the document below in the interests of avoiding any copy-write violations. Sadly, the document is somewhat less friendly without these.

There are parts of the document that are particular to my school setting. For example, the specific trees that children are to learn by sight match ones that are found on our school grounds.** Equally, I had to make a fair few subjective decisions (e.g. exactly which parts of a plant are essential to children’s understanding in a given year group? Stigma? Ovule? Xylem?) Although I’d advise personalising any curriculum document, there is, I think, huge overlap in what many schools will attempt to teach, especially given the precision of the science national curriculum compared to, say, history or geography. That being the case, without further ado here is the link to the science progression document:

Once you have downloaded the curriculum document, if you find that it saves you or your colleagues some time, please consider coming back to this page at some point and making a small donation to the Malaria Consortium using the following link. There is absolutely zero pressure to donate. If the charity bit puts you off from downloading, please just pretend it isn’t there! My central aim is to save some fellow teachers a bit of time if I can, so share it freely. A few donations to an excellent cause (in this case a top-rated GiveWell charity) would merely be a bonus:

*This structure of ‘revision’ and ‘new learning’ for each topic is borrowed from a curriculum document that @MrsSTeaches created and that she and Clare Sealy kindly shared with me; consider this an attempt to ‘pay it forward’ in response to their generosity.

**I think I saw this idea shared by Andrew Percival.

***There are bound to be a few spelling errors here or there (or even vocabulary that is defined as ‘new’ in more than one topic.) I’d hope that my decent science qualifications and teaching experience will have weeded out the vast majority of possible misconceptions in my scientific understanding, but feel free to ask questions or point out any errors. I sincerely hope that you find this useful.

4 thoughts on “Science – a curriculum giveaway

      1. I’ll find some time to read through this more thoroughly. In New Zealand we focus much more on capabilities than content knowledge and while I think it’s very important to grasp these, I do wonder if some kids slip through without learning some main big ideas. (and pondering if that’s a bad thing really?!)
        (Congrats on the cricket!)


  1. I’d argue quite strongly that much of what might be considered as ‘capabilities’ are underpinned by subject knowledge. While there are important skills in science, my experience of a chemistry degree and a master’s degree in environmental biochemistry suggested to me that science is a largely intellectual endeavour, based almost entirely on the web of interconnected knowledge that we have (and share). Key competencies are likely the emergent properties from a detailed understanding of the scientific knowledge.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s