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‘Visionary’ science teaching earns award for primary school

‘Visionary’ science teaching earns award for primary school

Sunday 15 December 2019

‘Visionary’ science teaching earns award for primary school


St. George’s has become the first Jersey school to earn a mark of quality for their science offering, recognising its “clear vision” for teaching and learning the subject in or out of the classroom.

The ‘Primary Science Quality Mark’ is a year-long programme during which teaching and learning of the subject in the school is assessed based on certain criteria to demonstrate a particular standard.

Express caught up with Head of Science at the school, Andrea Lathwell – who is also Jersey’s first ‘Climate Change Teacher’ – about how her innovative teaching methods earned this prestigious award for St. George’s…

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Pictured: St. George's Head of Science Andrea Lathwell (St. George's Preparatory School).

What is the PSQM?

“It’s a development programme that you can do where you assess your needs at the beginning. From there, you assess where you were at initially, what actions you’re going to put in place and then eventually you do the reflections to gain the award which is obviously then assessed by the University of Hertfordshire.”

How have you tried to innovate your teaching methods in science?

“Previously, a lot of science learning has been done by writing and doing experiments are important [too] but the writing when you’re in Key Stage 1 [KS1] is quite tricky and takes away from the fun of science. 

“So, in KS1 we’ve brought in what’s called ‘floor books’ so the teachers will take pictures of the children doing experiments themselves and write down comments of the things that the children say in their floor books and it shows them working scientifically and they don’t have to focus on the writing, they can focus on the actual science and how it applies in the real world.

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Pictured: Year 6 students Kate and India design scientific solutions to problems caused by climate change (St. George's Preparatory School).

“The important thing for me really is that science is a child-led subject, but that they learn through exploring themselves. I’m not spoon-feeding them, I’m facilitating them learn and find out things themselves.”

How else do you get your kids enthused about science?

“There’s quite a lot of experiments that we do throughout the year. We have external specialists come in and try and inspire them even more. I’ve had an astronomer from the University of Cambridge come in and speak to my children to give them presentations so that they can ask questions themselves.

“In science it’s important that they have real-life contexts as well as learning the curriculum.”

How does your accreditation as a ‘Climate Change Teacher’ feed into your science teaching?

“Currently I’m trying to incorporate it into the science curriculum and also into any part of the curriculum where I feel it could fit. I’m trying to basically empower children with the knowledge and understanding that climate change is happening, but they don’t need to be afraid of it because actually we can do something about it. 

“Next term I’m starting a climate change club with some of my Year 6’s so they can become ambassadors themselves of climate change. We’re also setting up a base camp programme in Jersey this year and we’re creating a partnership with six other schools on the island.

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Pictured: The school has committed to combatting and learning about climate change (St. George's Preparatory School).

“[It’s run through] Base Programme UK and it’s funded by the Stephen Hawking Foundation. So they’re sending us over a whole kit of tents and telescopes and we’re going to have some training with the other schools on the island and we’ve set up a little partnership so that people can come and use our equipment and use our grounds. I’m trying to spread the science, climate change and everything into all schools and get the whole community involved.” 

Do these teaching methods improve your students’ academic understanding of the subject?

“If you give children the experience of being able to find out things for themselves, and also show them real-life contexts it makes them enjoy it more and give them a deeper understanding of what they’re learning. 

“We found sometimes that when they get to Year 6 they’re much more confident in the subject and they’re not afraid by it.”

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