Curriculum Road Map: Biology
Curriculum Statement: Biology
The curriculum in science has been carefully mapped to include full National Curriculum coverage for the three strands of science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) at key stage 3. As a core subject GCSE science is studied in years 10 and 11 by all pupils, through either the combined science (Trilogy AQA) route or via an optional separate science GCSEs of Biology, Chemistry and Physics (AQA). Paper 1 topics for each strand are delivered in year 10, and paper 2 topics in year 11.
The science curriculum contributes to the development of transferrable skills such as problem solving, analysis and evaluation especially through the practical elements of the course. Students achieve well in science, and through the links between KS3 and KS4 we continue to challenge all students to make the best progress possible, especially those who have achieved highly in previous key stages.
As we offer several options for further study of science at UCS our goal is to prepare pupils for the next phase of their studies, with many going on to complete either BTEC Applied Science or science A-levels.
Pupils who have the most success at all key stages in science can interrelate the concepts that are taught resulting in knowledge of an explicit logical structure to science.
Throughout all key stages Biology follows twin threads of how our bodies (and those of other organisms) function, and the interdependence of all living things and biological processes. Physics follows the study of energy and energy transfers (mechanical, electrical, radiation and heating). Chemistry builds from the study of the periodic table and the nature of matter to the complex interaction of chemicals and their electron structures.
The KS3 National Curriculum covers much of the same material as GCSE science but to a less complex degree. We have ensured that we cover all aspects of the National Curriculum for all pupils, but we extend learning to include more advanced knowledge where appropriate, or to include some additional context and as we continue to develop the curriculum, some additional practical work.
There is some duplication of content between physics and chemistry (atomic structure and states of matter) in both the National Curriculum and GCSE specification. This is taught at KS3 during Chemistry topics, and then again at KS4 in both Chemistry and then Physics.
Each of the components at KS3 and 4 is broken down into manageable sections that build, one on another, to build an understanding of science. At KS4 each unit is split into subsections that constitute individual lessons or groups of lessons that fit together to teach the subject. These units build upon each other both in maths skills and in content to result in a coherent whole. This allows pupils to successfully build knowledge of science concepts and their relationships over multiple years, without working memory being overloaded.
Teaching the quantity of content in the KS4 specifications is a challenge, effectively teaching these at KS3 when they occur in the National Curriculum will help us to teach these as repeated knowledge rather than beginning with no assumed knowledge as we currently do with our current intakes at year 10. We have concentrated on developing retrieval skills and interleaving at all key stages and this will hopefully pay off when our current KS3 pupils reach KS4 and can recall key words and concepts from previous study.
There is a lot of debate about how KS3 is structured, around teaching orders etc... The teaching order will continue to be researched and modified over the coming years with each year group following a teaching order that they will follow throughout the key stage. KS4 and 5 are more set with definite material that is taught in year in years 10, 11, 12 and 13. At KS4 this is down to the specification that AQA provides. This teaching order is overall sensible although we have taken the decision to delay P2 electricity until the spring term as this enables us to teach P3 which is less maths heavy and theoretical than P2. As most schools in England follow the AQA specification and teaching order this makes it easier for pupils to transfer in part way though the key stage.
KS5 is split into AS and A2 content, the A2 content is often more demanding and although A2 does not rely on AS content as prerequisite, it is taught after the AS content.
KS5 – Year 12 A/S several discrete topics that follow on from KS4 adding detail and precision, Year 13 A2 increases the difficulty level and unifies some of the earlier topics and allows a certain degree of specialism in preparation for future destinations.
KS4 – Topics from paper 1 are taught in year 10 and paper 2 topics in year 11, this is in line with most other schools and allows for simpler transitions for pupils between schools.
KS3 – A mix of fundamental topics and topics intended to promote interest in science (such as space) are taught in Y7, Y8 and 9 continues with a mix of topics that build one on another and provide a grounding for the subsequent KS4 topics (in line with the national curriculum) and topics that promote engagement with science.
The KS3 sequence is under constant review and is informed by the department specialists and current research and thinking in the wider science teaching community.
The topics are arranged such that earlier topics are revisited in part in future topics, for example we look at sound waves in Y8 followed by light waves in Y9, this allows us to revisit the concepts of waves twice in KS3 dealing with the more readily experienced sound waves before the more theoretical and harder to visualise electromagnetic spectrum.
Schemata are built up topic by topic, concepts of energy stores from the first year 7 topics are repeated over and over in other topics and are built upon with increasing detail and complexity. For calculations this is built up over the 5 years, including the DESCUS method of arranging calculations, this is currently still in the development stage and is being written into all schemes of work where calculations and formulas come up.
Substantive knowledge is consistently and well taught in the department, the disciplinary knowledge is included several of the topics taught by each strand, including changing ideas and models (such as atomic model) that have developed and a variety of practical work. The transition to improved teaching of disciplinary knowledge is a journey that the department are on.
We are working towards the goal where knowledge is carefully sequenced to reveal the interplay between substantive and disciplinary knowledge. To ensure that pupils not only know ‘the science’ they also know the evidence for it and can use this knowledge to work scientifically.
The National Curriculum and AQA specifications guide our content, the sequencing of the topics and lessons within topics has been decided within the department and this is evolving as literature and research are incorporated into our planning. Subject specialists lead on the planning of individual lessons and these are then shared and edited to suit individual teacher and pupil needs.
End of topic assessments are used at all key stages to assess progress, along with more comprehensive end of year assessments and mock exams (for exam classes). The results of these are analysed (using QLA) and are used for comparison of classes and individuals. This data is then used to build plans for future teaching and for interventions where available.
Pupils are expected to complete all work either in exercise books or online on Showbie as instructed. Pupils expect to be asked questions and be prepared to answer if called on in every lesson.
There are key topics and ideas in each of the strands of science, they are visited repeatedly through KS3 and KS4. Most lessons begin with a retrieval/interleaving activity (starter for 10, retrieval roulette, fish dog elephant etc...) these activities help with recall and automaticity. As there are many links between topics within and across strands of science this affords many opportunities for pupils to revisit past topics as these links are investigated.
Gaps and misconceptions are actively looked for during teaching using questioning and carefully planned tasks. Question level analysis is used following assessments to identify gaps and misconceptions on an individual and group level. Where possible, intervention is in class and immediate, however organised intervention of selected groups during period 7 may be possible moving forward as the department grows.
Lessons are planned by subject specialists to avoid misconceptions and with tasks that promote good teaching and learning by providing opportunities for low stakes testing and a variety of AfL techniques including open ‘cold call’ questioning and effective consolidation techniques.
Lessons are planned using the 5Ps and often contain Kagan structures and TLaC strategies. Lessons are adapted for each group by the teacher to ensure that they are appropriate for the class that is receiving the lesson. Lessons are structured to provide scaffolding for all pupils to help build understanding of complex scientific ideas.
The specialists in the department are providing training for non-specialists on explanations and teaching strategies that can avoid misconceptions and ensure that definitions and teaching are consistent across the department regardless of the teacher.
All lessons in science begin with a ‘do now’ task, these can be a variety of activities designed to get pupils thinking about science. These are often recall activities such as ‘starter for 10’, ‘retrieval roulette’ or ‘fish, dog elephant’. All of these promote recall and retrieval and are an opportunity for interleaving. This frequent, low stakes retrieval practice encourages revision of content and allows misconceptions to be identified and definitions of tier 2 and 3 vocabulary and equations to be practiced.
The science department teach scientific thinking and methods that are applicable to many areas of everyday life. This has been relevant during the last few years when understanding the science in the news has been of paramount importance.
We enthuse our pupils through engagement with museums and universities. For example, our A-level cohort have been able to attend an Access All Areas Day at the dental department of The University of Bolton. We have also been lucky enough to have a week-long experience in school for KS3 and 4 that included the opportunity for pupils to handle ancient meteorites, rocks brough back from the Moon by the Apollo missions and other rocks that would normally be behind glass in a museum. We have also had visits from Medical Mavericks and Wonderstruck which wile being crossover events with Health and Engineering are also relevant to science career paths.
Assessments are carried out at the end of each topic in science, at KS3 this will mean that there are 3 short tests per term, at KS4 the assessments will be held at the end of each topic but as the topics vary in length the spacing of these are dictated by the content. Scores and question level analysis are collated and action plans built from there for future lesson planning, CPD and intervention. There are also assessment periods at the end of each year for KS3 and mock periods for years 10 and 11 to prepare them for longer terminal exams.
Feedback for all exams will take place in the form of the expert teacher reviewing the questions with the class, talking through both exam strategy and technique and content/answers.
We are fortunate to have subject specialists in all 3 strands of science, several of whom are employed by exam boards to mark GCSE science papers and to Standards Verify, and mark BTEC. These subject specialists and exam markers guide us in the process of moderation of mock exams within the department.
At KS4 setting is employed to appropriately support all pupils, although the setting does not determine which tier of exams a pupil is entered for in year 11 the content taught is tailored such that the more challenging higher tier content is only taught to the most able pupils. The specification allows us to delay this differentiation by content until the end of year 10 to allow for changes to be made without significant differences in content covered in each class to that point.
Science contributes several times each year to the ‘theme of the week’. Most recently we have run assemblies and produced coaching time work for, Space Week, World AIDS Day, Jeans for Genes and Science Week. We have also been lucky enough to have a week-long experience in school for KS3 and 4 that included the opportunity for pupils to handle ancient meteorites, rocks brought back from the Moon by the Apollo missions and other rocks that would normally be behind glass in a museum. We were even able to offer this experience to one of the primary schools within the Academy Trust.
The Head of Department takes part in weekly quality assurance checks with a focus on marking and feedback, teaching and learning and student agency. The results of the QA are discussed regularly with the department in weekly department time.
The department time is also used for sharing best practice and for subject specialists to share nuanced explanations and definitions of tier 3 vocabulary and concepts specific to their specialisms.
The science department are continually looking for improvements in their own teaching and learning and regularly share ideas and materials that are shared online and found in literature.