Research shows that Science is not always given the prominence it deserves as a core subject in Primary schools (Greany et al., 2016; Wellcome, 2017). Throughout my PGCE, I opted to specialise in Science pedagogy and re-ignite my passion for learning about the world around me that I had not explored deeply since studying A Level Chemistry. It was when undertaking the PGCE Science Subject Specialism, that the findings of these studies were very much the stark reality in some schools that trainee teachers and myself were placed in or visited. Moreover, research also reported that increasingly fewer secondary pupils were opting to further their studies into Science. From that moment, seeing first-hand how ‘voiceless’ and forgotten Science was becoming, I wanted to ensure that all children were provided with meaningful, high-quality Science pedagogy.
Fostering a love of Science
From a young age, most children have very positive attitudes towards practical science (McCrory and Worthington, 2018). Those findings have also been found with pupil voice discussions I have held in three Warwickshire schools and at St. Nicholas’ C of E First School in South Staffordshire. The ASPIRES report (2013) which analysed young people’s science and career aspirations found that most pupils decide whether they like or dislike Science by the age of ten (Spicer, S. and Jones, D., 2019; Archer et al, 2013). We must, then, make sure that a love of Science is nurtured throughout the early years of education to combat the issues of faced in secondary schools. Afterall, Science is a part of all we do, and certainly there are some fantastic careers awaiting for our future Scientists.
I believe that Primary Science is about providing children with hands-on, memorable learning experiences with opportunities for them to lead their own enquiries as well as developing Science Capital throughout schools. In turn, providing children with rich, varied opportunities to pave the way for children to eagerly become innovative Scientists of the future.
Showcasing my passion for Science, I was fortunate to become Science Lead in my NQT Year at St. Nicholas’. As Science lead, I have ensured that assessment of Science is rigorous and that the Science curriculum is carefully planned in small steps to progressively build upon prior learning. More importantly, I have aimed to raise Science’s prominence within school, for both the children and staff, as well as in the wider community. Subsequently, I have led my team, with passion and commitment for the subject, through celebratory science events, such as ‘International Women’s Day in Science’ and ‘Farmvention’, and a successful OFSTED ‘Deep Dive’ in Science pedagogy. These events have provided children with many experiences to develop Science Capital and career aspirations as well as evidencing an accessibility of science for all. As well as leading within school, I have delivered a presentation, “Developing the role of a Science Lead” at the University of Warwick. This presentation was recorded and has been far reaching, to not only students at Warwick, but to those within London and Derby.
Thus, providing enriching, memorable opportunities to enhance learning and promote Science Capital. Of course, Science Capital is vital to developing young people’s Science and career aspirations. One way of promoting Science was to lead a Whole-School Science Week in 2021.
While COVID-19 has in no-doubt affected us all, the disruption to children’s education has been significant, including the loss of engagement activities. To make up for this and give back to the children, I organised the Whole-School Science Week in the summer of 2021. At the beginning of the week, all children and staff dressed as what they perceived a scientist to be. The school was littered with the stereotypical “Mad Professor” look. In breaking down the stereotypes, I organised for all classes to see videos clips by various local scientists, including a geologist, midwife, doctor, and an electrician. This broke down stereotypes as well as demonstrating a wide spectrum of Science career pathways. In turn, helping the children to understand that these career pathways were well within reach and developing their overall career aspirations.
Furthermore, a series of visitors (with scientific backgrounds) came in to meet with the children, including beekeepers, air ambulance first responders and University researchers. All of these provided the children with memorable, ‘hands-on’ practical experiences. The team of researchers included academics and doctoral researchers from both the University of Birmingham and University of Loughborough’s School of Chemistry. I worked with the researchers in ensuring the ‘hands-on’, practical activities were relevant to, and suitable for, the different year group’s (Year 2 to 4) curriculum and overall learning journey. Before each session, students had the opportunity to guess what connection the researchers had in common (all relating back to a science career). The invited researchers included both female and male role models, in addition to a BAME researcher, who could all be seen as visible role models for the students. This re-affirmed the breakdown in stereotypes and the opening of science as a career for all.
There was an array of Science learning throughout the week. For instance, Year 2 learnt about the role of cellulose and completed a paper making activity from recycled pieces. This topic was related to the plants topic the children had been studying, as well as highlighting the importance of sustainability. Year 3 who had been studying magnetism and rocks in their science lessons, engaged in an activity considering recycling a Li-ion battery. The children had to consider the different properties of materials and successfully separate components. Finally, in Year 4, the children who had been learning about electrical circuits, engaged in a range of ‘hands-on’ learning activities all related to batteries. Other activities throughout the whole school, from Early Years to Year 4, focused on sustainability, science enquiry skills and science careers. In turn, the whole school contributed to the design of a collage highlighting the importance of protecting our planet.
The impact and success of the week was highlighted in a local newspaper which only furthers the impact and development of Science Capital within the wider community. For more information, please visit: https://www.expressandstar.com/news/education/school-events/2021/06/19/pupils-get-a-buzz-out-of-special-science-week/ .
Royal Society of Chemistry Award
In 2021, I was delighted to have been nominated for a Royal Society of Chemistry’s Early Career Prize for Excellence in Primary Education. I had received a nomination by one of the PhD researchers, Lizzie Driscoll, who was involved in the whole-school science week.
She commented, “I was fortunate in recent weeks to experience Joshua’s infectious enthusiasm and positive attitude towards science, while supporting his whole school science week. The planning of the science week had been over a 3-month duration.
“Joshua's passion and dedication to enriching this generation with science has been phenomenal. He has gone above and beyond to maintain science's importance within the school's curriculum, whilst leading these whole school events. He is also playing an important role in breaking down these barriers and stereotypes within science.
“Joshua is a credit to the school and our community, and I believe he deserves recognition for his efforts.”
The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Education Division Awards committee selected me to receive the award! I was awarded for dedication, enthusiasm, and effectiveness in the delivery of quality-first science pedagogy for children aged 4-9, while breaking down the stereotypes of the classic portrayal of a scientist.
To find out more about the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Excellence in Primary Education Award, please visit:
What can we do next?
Going forward, it is important to continue to maintain engagement with current pedagogical research and studies as well as ever-evolving Science phenomena. I am currently involved in a pilot for A-Z Thinking Moves which aims to develop metacognitive thinking skills in Science. Each ‘move’ supports the children’s acquisition of a range of thinking skills and provides teachers with a toolkit to use metacognition within their practice.
Furthermore, networking will become important in sharing and developing good practice throughout schools in the Local Authority. As well as this, our school is hoping to become a member of the Association for Science Education (ASE) and partake in the Primary Science Quality Mark (PSQM).
Science shapes the world around us and if we can equip children, in Primary Science, with curiosity and enquiry skills, we will be creating pathways to understanding new phenomena through future world-leading Scientists.
Joshua Piggott is a Class Teacher and Science Lead at St. Nicholas First School, Codsall. Prior to his career in Education, he graduated with a First-Class degree in BA (Hons) History at Cardiff University. He then undertook a PGCE in Primary with Science Specialism, graduating with a Distinction and a QTS at Outstanding level at the University of Warwick.
Since qualifying as a teacher, he has delivered CPD on “Developing the role of a Science Lead” for PGCE trainee teachers at the Centre for Teacher Education, University of Warwick and Cuckoo Hall Academy, London. He is reaching the completion of the National Professional Qualification in Middle Leadership (Educational Leadership) at the University of Wolverhampton.
Archer, L., Osborne, J., DeWitt, J., Dillon, J. & Wong, B. (2013) ‘ASPIRES young people’s science and career aspirations, age 10-14’, King’s College London.
Greany, T., Barnes, I., Mostafa, T., Pensiero, N. and Swensson, C. (2016) Trends in Maths and Science Study (TIMSS): National Report for England. London: Department for Education.
McCrory, A. and Worthington, K. (2018) Mastering Primary Science. London: Bloomsbury.
Spicer, S. and Jones, D. (2019) Science Capital In Primary PGCE Students: Factors influencing its development and its impact on science teaching. [online] Available from: https://asefuturesconference2019.sched.com/event/NExo/science-capital-in-primaryey-pgce-students
Wellcome Trust (2017) ‘State of the nation’ report of UK primary science education. Leicester: CFE.
Written By Joshua Piggott
Class Teacher and Science Lead at St. Nicholas’ Church of England First School, Codsall