Science

The courses offered by the science department encourage pupils to have a greater knowledge and understanding of themselves, the world and the universe. We encourage pupils to think scientifically and to apply scientific methods.

Our department is made up of teachers who are passionate about science and want to show the next generation the wonders it holds. Each brings a wealth of experience from working in a wide variety of scientific fields. Our department ethos is one of inclusiveness, honesty and integrity. We teach the ethical implications of our subject, as our students will be the adults of tomorrow.

This generation faces scientific challenges on a global scale. We believe in creating scientifically literate adults who will be critical thinkers and are able to distil facts from rhetoric. Living in a remote rural location it can feel a million miles away from the big issues, but we believe in making our students as equally prepared and knowledgeable as their city counterparts. With that in mind the curriculum we deliver is aimed at developing students’ ability to create, manipulate and extrapolate conclusions from scientific phenomena and how this can be applied to a variety of different career pathways.

We operate a spiral curriculum believing that knowledge is built up over the 5 years, by revisiting subject themes in increasing levels of detail. Starting in Year 7 we lay the foundations of critical thinking and the scientific method with a two week induction on safe lab use, identifying variables and carrying out the basic heating and safe handling of equipment and materials. The rest of the year is then about introducing the main concepts of science (energy, cells, atoms) which we will later develop through a number of different topics throughout the years. There are a number of science lessons that, while not in the curriculum, broaden knowledge, deepen learning and spark excitement for science. For example we teach the fundamentals of photography in year 8. Students learn how camera obscuras were made and how photography paper works. They create pinhole cameras and develop photograms. We show how this links with chemistry (photo paper development), physics (optics) and art.

We teach each module as explicit biology, chemistry & physics topics and where possible have a subject specialist deliver the module. This means passion and expertise for the subject permeates all our lessons. We believe that science is developed through empirical discovery and for that reason we give students many opportunities to carry out experiments and thereby develop a range of skills. This allows them to work in collaboration, to take on a wide variety of roles, develop communication skills, listening and presenting discoveries. 

Through years 8 & 9 we promote students to construct arguments, justifying their hypothesis through gathered evidence in experiments. This is a skill that develops critical thinking, drawing on data and graphs they themselves have created. These are highly transferable skills into the workplace later on in life.

To allow for two whole years of study towards the GCSEs we start teaching our GCSE curriculum in April of year 9. We spend a month on a topic within biology, chemistry and physics to give students experience of the challenges of what’s to come in KS4.  Students are asked to carry out a series of required practicals (alongside many others we decide are essential for developing a love of the subject).  

Sequence of learning

Within a topic, lessons are sequenced so that learning begins with the most simple concepts and builds in complexity. For example in year 7 biology we start with the structure of basic animal and plant cells and progress onto organs and organ systems. We then investigate two organ systems in detail (respiratory and digestive systems). This pattern of progressive learning appears in all topics through to the end of GCSEs.

In years 8 & 9 we introduce more advanced concepts of investigations. Each classroom has the keywords and descriptions on the walls. Students are encouraged to use them in advancing their writing skills to create more detailed experiments. In our assessments we test this and report it under the “thinking scientifically” skill (See below).

Skills sequencing: We have taken the 3 core skills for being a successful scientist and incorporated them into our sequencing and assessment/feedback cycle to students and parents. 

These are:- 

Facts (memorisation of core facts of a topic and application of that knowledge to new and novel situations), 

Long answers – questions that require students to have a deep understanding of a topic and familiarity of the language of science to accurately explain their understanding.

Thinking scientifically – this is exploring the universe through the lens of the scientific method. Students are assessed on the ability to create experiments that are fair and accurate, process the data in graphical form and analyse their results.

We mark the assessments and give feedback as a percentage for each of these three skills. Students then self assess and, using the help sheet below, decide on which skill they should develop to become better scientists. 

We record this data and use it to inform our reports to parents, giving them practical steps to help their child.

After each review of a topic test we carry out a graphing skill exercise to develop their skills in presenting data.

Teaching Topics

Year 7

Pupils are taught in their tutor groups. Pupils start with an introductory series of lessons, in which pupils learn how to work safely, and plan an investigation. They learn how to use apparatus such as Bunsen burners and balances and scientists create an experiment by identifying the variables to change and control. 

All pupils then go on to study the following topics and assessed at the end of each topic with a short test:

Space.  

Sound Elements, mixtures and compounds

Materials

Processes of Life

Energy

Ecosystems

Year 8

We teach 4 classes in tutor groups and start developing more advanced skills, such as measuring the range and uncertainty in results and analysing data to draw complex conclusions. All pupils study the following topics and the end of topic tests now include questions that develop AO2 and AO3 skills (scientific thinking and skills):

Electricity and Magnetism

Microbes and Health

Reproduction and Inheritance

Forces

Chemical Reactions

Chemicals and the Earth

Light

Year 9

We teach 4 classes in mixed ability groups. All pupils study the following topics and to a more challenging depth as preparation for GCSE. The topics are:

Chemistry

Energy & Forces

Life Processes

Electricity and Waves

Year 10 and Year 11

There are 5 groups set by ability (one of these is a triple science group). We make every effort to ensure that every pupil is taught by a subject specialist. We offer 2 routes through GCSE.

Trilogy AQA Double Science 

The majority of pupils select this option. They study all three subjects over 2 years and leave with a double award GCSE (9-1).

There is no coursework as students will carry out 16 required practical experiments that are then assessed in the exams.

AQA Single Sciences

Pupils study biology, chemistry and physics GCSEs over 2 years. As well as studying the same topics as double science, pupils study extension units which include looking at biotechnology, quantitative and qualitative analysis, organic chemistry and space physics.

This is ideal preparation for AS/A level courses.

Our vision is that all pupils, no matter their ability, leave Mullion School not only with a good understanding of science and its role in society, but also with the ability to apply the skills they have gained to everyday life.

Assessment

By Christmas of year 7 Mullion school will have the results from a CATS test taken in mid September. In conjunction with this and the targets generated from the Fisher Family Trust the department set each student a personalised target level (9-1). For KS3 we convert this target level into a test score target. This target is recorded on the front of the students exercise book.  Each student carries out a test at the end of each module of study. We mark them in class with an overhead projector, giving feedback on how to maximise outcomes. In line with the schools marking policy teachers give feedback as “What went well” (WWW) and “ Even better if” (Ebi) in green ink. Students respond to the feedback by making alterations and improvements in purple pen (purple pen of progress). Students then record each test result in the front of their book to help identify trends in achievement. 

For example here is the year 8 record sheet.

Test target score_____/25
Test 1 Test 2 Test 3 Test 4 Test 5 Test 6 Test 7 Test 8
Name of test
Result
Target achieved Y/N

Throughout the year we will use our data to discuss progress with our students and look for trends.

Cross curricular links

The department is excited to develop strong cross curricular links and our first inter departmental working group with the maths department has helped improve our teaching in both subjects. A good example of this was the language used in describing equations vs formuli. We are also using the same calculators and demonstrating their use on the overhead projectors. We plan on working alongside Humanities and English in the coming year.

Curriculum Time

  • Year 7   4 X 50 minute lessons per week.
  • Year 8   4 X 50 minute lessons per week.
  • Year 9   4 X 50 minute lessons per week.
  • Year 10  6 X 50 mins per week. One Triple Science group 9 X 50 minute lessons per week.
  • Year 11 6 X 50 mins per week. One Triple Science group 9 X 50 minute lessons per week.