26 May 2010
In 2008 a new science curriculum for pupils at key stage 3 (KS3) (ages 11-14) was introduced. The aim was to engage and motivate pupils, and to prepare them effectively for the challenges of the 21st Century. In science this took the form of a reduction of content and a focus on 'How Science Works' (HSW). In 2009 this was followed by the introduction of Assessing Pupils' Progress (APP), a new approach to assessment which reinforces the messages of the curriculum in the context of more systematic assessment.
Against this background, NFER surveyed the views of Local Authority (LA) secondary science consultants on APP. Two online questionnaires (May and September 2009) investigated what progress had been made and their emerging opinions.
Reference to government policy in the report apply to that of the Labour government, in place prior to the general election in May 2010. The new government's policy with regard to Assessing Pupils' Progress is not yet known. Nevertheless, many schools have incorporated it into their teaching and therefore we feel the research findings will be of interest.
- Overall views of APP were positive. Consultants identified potential improvements in teaching, learning and assessment, together with enhanced teacher confidence. However, caution was expressed at this early stage of implementation.
- There is a continuing need to actively promote APP in KS3 science, focusing on the link with HSW.
- There is a continuing need for guidance materials focusing on gathering and interpreting evidence on pupil attainment, and on combining APP with other assessment approaches.
- Teachers need time to understand the APP criteria, evaluate current practices, and develop schemes of learning. The role of Senior Leadership Teams (SLTs) is crucial.
- Consultants stressed the importance of maintaining a high status of science in these changing times.