An innovative new project is seeking to sharpen the science skills of hundreds of schoolchildren in Newcastle and Northumberland.
Thanks to a grant of £90,000 from SHINE, through a partnership with regional schools’ network Schools North East, a programme is being introduced at six primary schools that is designed to give pupils the skills they need to succeed in biology, chemistry, and physics when they move to secondary.
Around 900 children between the ages of 7 and 11 will take part in the three-year pilot, which will be extended into other schools if it proves to be a success.
The scheme, which is being led by Sacred Heart Catholic High School in the city’s west-end, will see secondary school science teachers working alongside primary school staff to create a new science curriculum.
It is being developed to “bridge the gap” that currently exists between primary and secondary school. Many children – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds – start Year 7 without basic science skills, which means teachers can spend a lot of time helping these students catch-up with their peers.
Developing these children’s knowledge of science at an earlier age should give them a head start at high school which could have long-term benefits and lead to improved GCSE results.
The primary schools taking part are Sacred Heart RC Primary School, Newcastle, English Martyrs Catholic Primary School, Newcastle, Our Lady and St Anne’s RC Primary School, Newcastle, St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School, Walbottle, St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School, Kenton, St Bede’s Catholic Primary School, Bedlington.
Sacred Heart High School science teacher Alex Robertson explained that primary teachers will receive training in delivering science lessons that will give their pupils a solid grounding in science.
“This is not about telling primary school teachers how to do their job,” he stressed. “What primary school teachers are expected to know is unbelievably broad and they are not all science specialists.
“What we are doing is giving help and support to these teachers and providing them with the resources they need. It is very much a collaborative effort. We will provide training in the areas that they will find of most use.” Mr Robertson said that disparities between children were clear as soon as they started at secondary school. “We’d ask, for example, if they know how to draw a bar graph and 10 children might say yes, but another 20 say no. It’s been an issue we’ve experienced for some years now.