How primary schools teach practical work in science
Much of the practical science undertaken in primary school involves familiar 'real life' contexts, enabling teachers to accommodate this within a normal classroom environment. Often children will work in small groups to carry out their practical work.
They may also use other school facilities such as a kitchen to make scientific observations during some aspects of cooking or the outside area, if they are looking at living things in their habitat.
Children will gradually be introduced to more specific scientific equipment as they move through primary school, such as various types of measuring equipment (Newton metres to measure force, for example).
During their time at primary school, children will gradually develop their skills in posing scientific questions to investigate, planning and carrying out a simple investigation and making predictions about the results.
They will learn to make their test 'fair' and to make close observations and take measurements. They also gradually learn to draw more general conclusions from their observations and results.
Over a period of time, most schools plan a mixture of science sessions; some practical, where children carry out their investigations and some more 'theoretical' lessons where children learn more about the topic they are studying or spend time recording what they have found out.
Not all the topics covered lend themselves equally well to practical work, so you may find your child spends more timing doing practical work during some topics than others. Schools balance this out over the course of year and all topics should contain some aspects of practical science.
How is science assessed?
There are no longer any externally marked written tests (SATs) for science in primary school. Instead, the teacher will make ongoing teacher assessments of children as they cover the various aspects of science throughout primary school, using national guidance to assess their pupils' progress.
Some schools also use written science tests at various points throughout the year to check what children have understood and help inform the teacher's judgement. Some schools still use past SATs papers in year 6 to help give an overall level for science, but this is not compulsory.
A child's national curriculum level for science is reported to parents at the end of KS1 and 2, although some schools may also report levels at the end of each year.