Looking at them, I'm not entirely sure why it took quite so long to produce them - unless it's because the people responsible spend the whole time going 'Oh my, this is going to be hard to do well'. And then they just published a list of what children should be able to do at the end of each KS, which looks almost, but not quite, exactly like the statements in the National curriculum itself. Michael Tidd (@MichaelT1979) has already blogged about the fact that the performance indicators appear to be levels in all but name, so I won't grumble about them here.
However, I've been looking at the science descriptors, and there are a couple of things that struck me.
Key Stage 1.
The working scientifically section says:
"While studying the content of biology, chemistry and physics a pupil at the national standard is able to work scientifically by using first-hand practical experiences and a wide range of sources of information to develop an understanding of a range of scientific ideas."
The topics in KS 1 are as follows:
Year 1: Plants; Animals, including humans; Everyday materials; Seasonal changes.
Year 2: Living things and their habitats; Plants; Animals, including humans; Use of everyday materials.
As you can see, physics is distinctly lacking in the list of topics in the NC itself. Nor does the word appear in the performance indicators. Instead we have:
Chemistry - Changes in materials
- describe how the shapes of some solid materials can be changed by applying a force.
Hmmm, not really sure that this is actually chemistry.
In a way, I'm pleased, because I have been telling primary teachers that they can sneak forces (pushes, pulls, twists etc) into KS1 using the 'Use of everyday materials' section. (I particularly like the Big Bad Wolf activity in this Teachers TV video).
But Forces as part of Chemistry? Really?
Key Stage 2.
Again, my issue is with the working scientifically section.
Pupils are able to:
recall and use appropriate terminology when working scientifically (at least: accurate, conclusion, evidence, fair test, prediction, reliable, supports (evidence), variable, unit)
Here I take issue with 'reliable'.
A few years back the ASE, in consultation with the metrology institutes in the UK, published a book called 'The Language of Measurement'. This came about because different exam boards were using terminology differently (and sometimes inconsistently between A-level and GCSE specifications in the same board). The Language of Measurement therefore puts forward a standard list of terminology that can be used when discussing 'working scientifically'. All the exam boards have signed up to this, and all the new GCSE and A-level specifications take the recommendations into account. You can find a sample of the booklet here, or purchase the full booklet here.
So, why the problem with 'reliable'. Well, this is what the authors say:
"The word ‘reliability’ has posed particular difficulties because it has an everyday usage and had been used in school science to describe raw data, data patterns and conclusions, as well as information sources. On the strong advice of the UK metrology institutes, we avoid using the everyday word ‘reliability’, because of its ambiguity. For data, the terms ‘repeatable’ and ‘reproducible’ are clear and therefore better. For conclusions from an experiment, evaluative statements can mention ‘confidence’ in the quality of the evidence.
pg 6. Language of Measurement
So, pupils in primary school will be taught about 'reliability'. And then they'll go to secondary school where they will be taught that use of the concept of reliability will lose them marks in tests and exams and that they should use repeatable (same person, same equipment, same results) and reproducible (different person, different equipment, same finding/outcome).
There's nothing like joined up thinking in government. And this is indeed, nothing like joined up thinking.
Should you be intending to reply to the consultation, please feel free to point out these two examples of the disconnect between the different aspects of the curriculum reform.
And if you're a primary school teacher, please do feel free to teach your children the idea of repeatable and reproducible. It kind of makes sense.