A suite of GCSE science courses developed in partnership with the University of York

KS3 to KS4 Case study Preston Manor High School

Case study by Helen O’Connor and Kayzad Byramjee, Preston Manor School

Preston Manor High School, Wembley

Preston Manor is a mixed, 11-18 comprehensive of approximately 1400 students, with specialist science college status. Large numbers of students progress to A level sciences. In years 7 and 8, students are taught in eight mixed tutor groups. In year 9 there are ten science groups:

  • two groups comprise students who have made the most progress in science and are likely to take separate science GCSEs.
  • eight sets are mixed ability.

All fifteen science staff teach at both KS3 and KS4.

KS3 pre-2008

Science was previously taught using the QCA Schemes of Work (SOW). We had adapted these, where possible, to develop students’ enquiry skills. This successfully supported progression to the old GCSE curriculum.

What we are doing now at KS3

After introducing the new C21 specifications, it became apparent that our KS3 SOW left gaps in students’ skills, knowledge and understanding related to ideas about science.

We followed these steps to review our KS3 schemes of work and begin making changes.

  1. We used the ‘ideas about science’ specification statements (Appendix F) in GCSE Science to identify where students had the most difficulty. This gave us priority areas for attention at KS3.
  2. We are adapting the National Strategy yearly teaching objectives for How Science Works (HSW) to produce C21-specific yearly teaching objectives.
  3. We are reviewing our previous Y7 SOW to produce differentiated HSW learning outcomes.
  4. We are auditing some relevant publications for activities that would support progression. These included AKSIS (Scientific enquiry and Getting to grips with graphs), the IDEAS pack (for teaching argumentation), Thinking Skills through Science and Learning Skills for Science. We selected activities and placed them in the Year 7 scheme of work so that students revisit skill areas within different contexts. In the new scheme of work, enquiry and developing explanations are the main focus of learning, with science content subsidiary.
  5. We are adapting some activities for different groups of students. An example, developed from scratch within the department, is the duck-billed platypus activity, used in a lesson on classification of vertebrates.
    >>Download worksheet: classifying mammals (108 KB)
    >>Download teachers notesclassifying mammals (95 KB)
  6. In parallel with this, we reviewed teaching and learning approaches to ensure that classroom practice supports the use of these resources and student skill development. We decided to focus on collaborative learning approaches.

Links with other schools

We also formed a cluster with four other schools, to examine how the new curriculum could support collaborative learning.

One outcome was a sequence of teaching activities based around a motivating theme (Crime Scene Investigation) where the principal learning objective is practising and developing scientific enquiry skills. This forms the introductory unit to science in year 7, highlighting for students and teachers alike a key feature of science.

Future plans

We continue to develop our Year 7 scheme of work, and will follow on with the Year 8 scheme of work. The Year 9 HSW teaching objectives overlap significantly with the ‘ideas about science’ specification statements, giving us flexibility in Year 9.

Students who have made good progress in year 7 and 8 may start GCSE science early, allowing more time for triple science. Other students will do project work to consolidate the skills required for the GCSE curriculum.

We are now mapping Assessing Pupil Performance (APP) statements against our yearly teaching objectives to ensure assessment at KS3 focuses on the skills that are key for progression. Again we are collaborating with other local schools.