Science at Totnes Progressive School
Foundation – overview of teaching
The KS2 curriculum is taught on a two-year rolling programme and roughly mirrors the chronological narrative which is followed in Foundation English and Humanities. This runs from the Big Bang through to Ancient Rome. Exceptions to this are made to cover additional required content including electricity and circuits, some of the materials subject and human development which is taught alongside the relevant PSHE scheme. Teaching the course in this way allows topics to be covered multiple times throughout the two years helping to cement ideas and concepts which will be further developed upon in KS3.
Students have one lesson a week with a specialist science teacher. There is a focus throughout on working scientifically and developing critical thinking skills. The programme is highly practical with opportunities for the students to plan, do and evaluate their own investigations as well as drawing conclusions from secondary sources.
Living things & their habitats
Animals including humans
Changes & development
Health & nutrition
Evolution & inheritance
Fossils & change over time
Variation & adaptation
Properties & changes in materials
Material properties & uses
Chemical & physical changes
Earth & Space
The Earth & Moon
The Solar System
Properties of light
Changing voltage and its effects
Assessment at KS2 is by continuous teacher assessment with ongoing feedback provided throughout the course. Students are taught how to approach unfamiliar situations using their knowledge of how science works, and this, in combination with their Maths and English assessments, is used to generate an idea of what their attainment might look like at GCSE.
KS3 Science - overview of teaching
KS3 students follow a ‘spiral’ curriculum, which identifies major themes in science and builds on their knowledge and application of concepts each year. These major themes prepare the students for the concepts they will meet in KS4, and provide that underlying knowledge to give them the best chance of success at GCSE. Woven into these themes are opportunities to improve skills in mathematical application, and development of how to work scientifically through practical investigations.
The teaching at KS3 is undertaken by one teacher for each year group; this enables the teacher to gain a comprehensive understanding of each individual student and how they approach their work, whilst also providing the student with consistency and regular support. Students have three science lessons a week, and rotate through the subjects of physics, chemistry and biology.
KS3 Course information - AQA KS3 Science Syllabus
Properties of Waves
Uses of Waves
Metals and Non-metals
Types of Reaction
Structure of the Earth
Students complete a baseline assessment on entry to year 7, which is then analysed to get an idea of their understanding of scientific concepts and how to work scientifically. The baseline assessment is used alongside teacher judgement to give an approximate idea of attainment at GCSE. They are also assessed at the end of each topic with a 30 minute assessment, followed by a feedback lesson that addresses any persistent misconceptions or gaps in knowledge highlighted by the assessment. Throughout their lessons, students are informally assessed on skills such as experiment design, use of equipment, precision and accuracy, constructing graphs, drawing conclusions from data, and critical evaluation of practical methods. They will also be asked to draw on skills from across the curriculum, such as communication of ideas through analogies and models, using and rearranging equations, constructing lines of reasoning, evaluating sources of evidence, and discussions around the ethical uses of science.
Students are also assessed at the end of KS3 to see how their skills have developed over the two years, and also to provide a more realistic idea of attainment at GCSE. This, alongside information provided by the KS3 teacher, can then be used by the subject specialist GCSE teacher to give a well informed predicted grade.
KS4 - overview of teaching
All students undertake the AQA Combined Science (Trilogy) course, which provides them with two GCSE grades. These grades are calculated from the completion of six written exams taken at the end of Year 11 - two each for Biology, Chemistry and Physics. For more information on the grading scale used, see the AQA website. Throughout the course, students are expected to complete a number of required practicals for each subject. These have replaced the coursework element of previous courses; they are designed to give students a working understanding of more up-to-date methods used in science, and a sample of the practicals are expected to appear in the GCSE exam.
Yr 10 topics
P3 Particle Model of Matter
P4 Atomic Structure and Isotopes
Yr 11 topics
Yr9 detail (topics/modules/skills)
C1 - Atomic Structure and the Periodic Table
C2 - Structure, Bonding and Properties of Matter
Yr 10 detail (topics/modules/skills)
C3 - Quantitative Chemistry
C4 - Chemical Changes
C5 - Energy Changes
C7 - Organic Chemistry
C8 - Analytical Chemistry
Yr 11 detail (topics/modules/skills)
C6 - Rate and Extent of Chemical Change
C9 - Chemistry of the Atmosphere
C10 - Using Resources
B1 Cell Biology and Transport
Yr 10 topics
B3 Infection and Response
B5 Homeostasis and Response
Yr 11 detail (topics/modules/skills)
B6 Inheritance, Variation and Evolution
Students are summatively assessed after each topic with a 45 minute assessment, which is then used to provide evidence for their predicted grade. They are also given individualised feedback on their answers, addressing both their understanding of the concepts involved and on their exam technique.
The GCSE exams consist of six papers, each lasting 1 hour 15 minutes. There are two papers for each subject, and the content is split evenly across the two papers as follows:
Physics - Paper 1: Topics 1-4, Paper 2: Topics 5-7
Chemistry - Paper 1: Topics 1-5, Paper 2: Topics 6-10
Biology - Paper 1: Topics 1-4, Paper 2: Topics 5-7
Interventions for students falling behind/struggling
Students are offered bespoke one-to-one sessions as identified by their teacher. In addition to weekly suggested revision, there are also revision clubs offered leading up to the exams in the summer term.
COVID changes and adjustments
There have been a number of restrictions to access and use of practical equipment during times of lockdown and upon the return to school. This has resulted in the exam board advising that students are not expected to complete all of the required practicals as directed, but may be shown videos or demonstrations. There will also be a revised equations sheet available to students that is yet to be released.
We currently have a STEM club on offer, which is run by our technician, Nick. Students are presented with ideas to work with that are engaging and inspiring, but not necessarily covered by the national curriculum. They are given problems to solve, processes to practice, and are encouraged to discuss wider issues such as sustainability and technological advancement.
As the science department has been developing, and restrictions have been easing, we are planning to incorporate more trips into the curriculum. The benefits of outdoor learning are well established, and we endeavour to build this into our normal lessons on site as much as possible. There have been a number of ideas proposed to take the students further afield, including visits to the Field Studies Council site at Slapton Ley to do some real world ecology, trips to local conservation sites, arboretums, aquariums, power plants, science museums, planetariums… the list goes on!
May 2021 saw the first ever TPS science week, which consisted of exciting lunchtime demonstrations and interactive experiments, visits from local experts in engineering and sound audio, online video conferences with scientists further afield - we even had a call from a scientist working in nanomedicine, who joined us virtually from Saudi Arabia. We invited local universities to engage students in what life would be like studying science at degree level, and, perhaps most excitingly for the students, we had a visit from a local animal expert who brought a range of creatures for students to interact with. We look forward to hosting another science week later on in the year.
Advice for parents and revisions ideas
Due to the large amount of content in the GCSE course, it is highly recommended that students partake in revision outside of lesson time to help embed their knowledge and understanding, and improve their recall. We have found the following sites to be informative and helpful in achieving this:
GCSE Course information and past papers - AQA Combined Science (Trilogy)
Useful revision sites:
BBC Bitesize (also available as an app)
Useful website links
Foundation Science Curriculum
AQA KS3 Science Syllabus
AQA Combined Science (Trilogy)