Primary Science – time for a new QTS skill test?

Well I’m determine to keep on my blogging schedule so this weekend it is a waffle on this blog. I do find this really difficult, especially since I am in the middle of marking at the moment which is taking up a lot of my time – both in and out of work. There is a big difference between marking children’s books every day to marking eighty nine three thousand words assignments in a four week turn around when there is still teaching, school visits and general admin tasks to be completed. However, a target is a target and I am here, sat with my coffee ready to write this waffle. What is it about? Well I have been thinking about primary science for some time, especially since I teach it, and wanted to share with you some of my thoughts about the subject and possibly suggest the implementation of a new QTS skill test….


I’ve written a similar post about primary science before called -“Science – how I think it should be” but I wanted to further add to this since when I was writing the first waffle, I didn’t have enough room on the post to say everything I wanted to say relating to subject knowledge so I thought that I would devote this waffle specifically to this. I just want to remind you all that I am not really in a position to create a new QTS skill test for science and I am actually not that sure whether introducing one would actually have the impact which would be desirable, but I do wonder whether it should be something which is discussed in the future.

  • Teaching requires knowledge – Teaching is a valuable profession which requires a huge amount of skill and knowledge. I am often disappointed when I hear people commenting that they can’t think of anything else to do or they see the bursary bonuses being offered by the government and they say – I’ll try teaching. Teaching is a vocational subject which is hard and stressful with rewards which are immense, and I am not talking about the pay cheque at the end of the month! In order to teach effectively, I know that I needed a high degree of organisational skills, the ability to adapt instantly, the ability to be creative (let’s not get into the meaning of the word), exceptional communication skills and the knowledge of understanding of not only a range of theories relating to pedagogy but also a knowledge of the world around us. The knowledge and understanding is so important and includes all the subjects including science. If I wanted to learn how to sing or fix a car I would definitely not go to someone who had little or no knowledge of the process and ask them to teach me. If I did, then I would probably end up with with very little real understanding and many misconceptions. This is my feeling with science and the other subjects within the primary curriculum. Practitioners need to be experts, to be up to date and to know their subjects in order to teach it effectively. Before you all grab you pitchforks and head off in my direction, I’m not talking about degree level understanding but I am talking up to GSCE level at least. I would say, when I was teaching, that history was my weakest subject with respect to knowledge and I had to work very hard to try and expand this. Even now, when I am doing my radio show, I still like to read about ancient history which was probably sparked from reading about ancient times in preparation for teaching. What am I saying in this section? Well summing up it would be teaching requires you to have a good understanding of subjects and it is only with this that we can really teach these effectively.

  • Would you pass a QTS skill test in science? – Whenever the Year 6 science SATs were published I remember that there was always that panic about what was in the tests and how it was asked and the answers which were actually acceptable. I remember always wondering whether or not my class would be able to answer the questions but then being reassured by the fact that I knew that each of them enjoyed science and, although they might not have the specific word knowledge that the test requested, they did have some knowledge which related to their own level of cognitive development and had spent the year developing skills relating to investigation and exploration. If I asked the children in Year 6, will you pass the science SAT, I can imagine that there would be a huge variation of responds from the confident yes, through the worrying no to the draining of colour and the possibility of passing out. If there was a QTS skill test for science, for all practitioners – I was wondering whether the responses of the children would be mirrored across the teaching community. The primary curriculum is, after its recently reorganisation, narrowed with regards to content. There are specific topics which are within the curriculum now, which would mean that there is a limited amount of knowledge which is required. If I altered the initial question slightly and asked would you be pass a test on primary science then I would hope that everyone would respond with the positive. If you are sat reading/listening to this and thinking you would fail, then are you really prepared to teach science? I do agree that some practitioners, like I did with history, probably learn more about topics as they are required to teach it, and this is fine – having a context for the knowledge is probably a much better way of learning the content. But I think that everyone should be able to understand and demonstrate a degree of mastery of the primary content and, if I am being brutally honest, slightly higher!

  • What are you doing about it? – Okay, let’s pretend that you are actually still reading/listening to this and haven’t decided to wipe me off the face of the internet and you are coming to the conclusion that your understanding of science is not that good and really you would fail the test. Well, my next question would be, what are you doing about it? When I started to teach, I remember that there was a distinct lack of internet resources, in fact there was he distinct lack of the internet! Today, we are blessed – or in some people’s views hindered, by the internet. But one advantage of information highway is literally that – information. There exists a wealth of videos, webpages and even audio files about a range of topics and subjects. If you are not sure about the process of digestion or what forces are beyond the mythical power that Luke Skywalker uses, then you only need to type the words into YouTube and you will be presented with a range of videos to watch which will not only increase your understanding of the topic but also probably present you with ideas for both teaching and those interesting funny facts which children really enjoy. Not understanding the topics within the science curriculum is fine, not doing anything about it is definitely not fine. Science is, despite what you think, exciting and really interesting. It reflects the world around us, explaining it and presenting answers to mysteries as well as embracing curiosity and encouraging us to explore further. If you dip your toe into the lake of science knowledge, before long you might be actually taking a swim every day and even though you might be using the internet as your buoyancy aid, you will be enjoying and learning more about science and ultimately communicating that to the individuals you are teaching.

  • This is probably quite a controversial waffle to start of with, but I am hoping that reading this might inspire people to delve deeper into science and extend their own knowledge. Don’t worry, you won’t turn into a science geek like me, you are quite safe. I do, however, understand that what I have written here could be related to every subject within the primary curriculum. People often want teachers to attend pub quizzes with them and I often hear – how come you don’t know that, you are a teacher! Although I believe that two of our armoury of skills which we must have as a practitioner are knowledge and understanding of subjects, these are only two of a huge range of skills. And, and I want to make this completely clear, we are not masters of these subjects, we are just Jack of All Trades and master of just a few.

    I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.

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    Have fun and I’ll catch you later and, until then, consider yourself waffled!