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