“You can spot an Empiribox child”
Richard Thomas, Headteacher at Pevensey & Westham C Of E Primary School in Westham, talks about improving engagement and attainment in primary science.
When Richard Thomas took over as headteacher five years ago, Pevensey & Westham C of E Primary School was giving cause for concern. The overall results in the school were not particularly impressive with just 70% of children achieving SATs level four and above in English and mathematics. There was pressure to improve performance and as a result science, along with other subjects, was virtually squeezed out of the curriculum.
The resources were so limited that Richard knew he needed to improve the offering as soon as possible. He brought in specialist teachers for sport, Spanish, RE, and other subjects. However, he did not employ a specialist science teacher: “I wanted to make the class teachers responsible for science and to make science the vehicle to improve progress in English and maths.”
In fact, Richard went one step further and decided to make science the school’s Unique Selling Point. This was a tall order. Many staff were understandably anxious about the changes as until then their science experience had been limited to creating a nature table and doing a little bit of cooking.
A Catalyst for Change
Richard brought in a consultant who spent one day a fortnight in the school to audit provision and support staff. The consultant suggested materials, useful contacts and community resources and he recommended the school subscribe to Empiribox.
CPD consultants from Empiribox, came into the school to train the staff on their first termly module; Forces. This session was full of practical activities and left the staff really fired up and ready to go.
The KS2 classes have now worked through six different units and have also started to explore science in different ways with regular visits to a local zoo and to the Observatory Science Centre in Herstmonceux.
Pupils are excited by their science work. I know this because parents tell me that when they ask children what they have done at school, they get detailed and animated accounts of the science sessions.
“It is absolutely brilliant value for money,” said Richard. “Once we have paid for staffing it is the first resource that we fund. The children go home and rave about the science lessons, so they know the impact that it has and that it is value for money.”
The assessment results are excellent too, above the national average, and whether you look at year 3 or year 6, the science grades are higher than the assessments for reading, writing and maths.
Impact on Staff
Confidence and enthusiasm have soared. Five of the staff have been nominated as lead science practitioners but it is not just the teachers who are fired up. One of the support staff took on the role of science technician. She had additional training and has done an excellent job for the school.
There have been some notable highlights during the year; “We recently hosted a piece of moon rock six billion years old,” said Richard. “There was high security and we had to keep it under wraps until the day before, but local science groups came in. None of this would have happened without Empiribox.”
Teachers’ horizons have expanded. Whereas before they were just in the foothills of science creating simple low-level activities, they are now much more challenged by the level of science they are teaching and there are moves to develop the STEM agenda at Pevensey & Westham bringing in specialist teachers for the engineering and technology elements.
Staff push children to achieve more at KS2 and to develop more rigorous scientific thinking. Now they are finding that their work is having an impact on secondary schools.
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