Story: Lucy and Sara’s Story

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We knew the main barriers would be limited resources and teachers being a bit frightened to teach science because of a lack of subject knowledge.

Science learning in school can be a real joy for both teachers and students, with key skills being developed that will help children in all aspects of life. But in many primary schools across the UK, science is underfunded and deprioritised, with the Covid-19 school closures only serving to compound the problems.

Many teachers have faced the difficult task of making science fun and engaging over a remote learning platform. Barriers to effective science teaching existed long before the pandemic and now, more than ever, teachers are battling to keep children engaged with science after nearly a year of disrupted learning.

The project gets the children engaged with science, which is great as their career aspirations can be very low. That is a part of the project that really aims towards the disadvantaged children, who will often turn off from science because they didn’t think it was for them.

Lucy Flanagan Let Teachers SHINE winner

A huge part of science in the early years stage involves children taking part in exciting hands-on activities. They learn facts and information about the world around them through investigations, such as testing whether objects will float or sink, and whether materials can be dissolved in water. These memorable learning activities help to inspire a love for science at an early age.

At primary school, this learning often becomes worksheet based, particularly for schools with high disadvantage and a lack of funding. In a study of primaries across the UK, Ofsted found that only one in fourteen of the schools were providing a successful science curriculum.1

Why is it that children ‘lose interest’ in science by the age of 12?

Research from as early as the 1960s found that a third of students had already decided whether or not to study science by the age of twelve.2 A more recent study has instead suggested that it isn’t that primary students lose their interest in science, but actually that the interest is never there in the first place.3

Inspiring a passion for science in primary school is essential, then, for encouraging children to consider a career in STEM. So why is it that practical learning stops at this early stage, when it can be so effective for young people?

Lucy Flanagan and Sara Deakin, teachers at Victoria Lane Academy in Durham, recognised the many barriers that teachers face in trying to deliver good quality science lessons, such as limited funding, a lack of time to research effective lesson plans, and low confidence.

Last year, they received Let Teachers SHINE funding to trial their educational toolkit Simmple Science, which supports teachers in giving inspirational learning content for the “Animals, Including Humans” topic of the primary science curriculum. The toolkit takes away these barriers for teachers, providing a ready-made booklet that contains practical lesson plans, guides on question prompts, and equipment for the investigations.

“We knew the main barriers would be limited resources and teachers being a bit frightened to teach science because of a lack of subject knowledge. We’ve made sure that the packs have everything the teacher needs to do that lesson, so the kids can get these practical science experiences,” said Sara.

There are currently 10-12 investigations per year group, with some investigations progressing across year groups.

From KS1 to KS2, the children build on their knowledge of the heart through exciting activities. Click the arrows to view the progression map for years 4-6.

You can view in full-screen mode by clicking the image. 

Extra support for children with special educational needs

Additional support is given to pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), including the help of a teaching assistant to record the children’s observations and learning journey.

Lucy and Sara found that these students struggle with their recording skills in science lessons, but otherwise excel in practical learning. The Floor Books help to capture the verbal learning which would otherwise be missed in class. The recording for KS1 is shown to the right.

You can view in full-screen mode by clicking the image.

Pupil voice

They conducted a pupil voice questionnaire with Years 4 and 5 and received fantastic feedback. Not only were the children able to describe what they had done in their science lessons, but they could also give facts and use the correct terminology.

One student with autism explained how he had previously struggled with science because he “didn’t see the point” of making predictions for experiments. Through taking part in Simmple Science activities, he came to understand the links that these experiments had to real life.

Lucy and Sara are hopeful that their project can be used in more schools to help both teachers and students to enjoy practical science lessons.


  1. Intention and substance: further findings on primary school science from phase 3 of Ofsted’s curriculum research (Feb 2019)
  2. Studying Stem? What are the Barriers? Institution of Engineering and Technology (2008)
  3. Why Do Secondary School Students Lose Their Interest in Science? Or Does it Never Emerge? A Possible and Overlooked Explanation (2016)