The Lab 13 project: How to go from "requires improvement" to "GOOD" with science!

Irchester Primary School in Northamptonshire had a problem. In 2012 OfSTED judged them as “requiring improvement”, so headteacher Julia Alison – not one to shirk a challenge, decided something radical had to be done…

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The school was judged as requires improvement at its inspection in September 2012. The headteacher and her leadership team proposed that the areas for improvement could be addressed by developing an approach to teaching that enabled pupils to:

  • raise questions in response to teachers’ lessons and to demonstrate inquisitiveness 
  • spend time applying the knowledge they have learned in lessons and finding out answers to develop their understanding 
  • increase the quality and quantity of their written work.

Science, by its nature, involves all of these elements through experimental enquiry. School leaders reasoned that by using science teaching and learning as a focus point overall pupil standards would rise. The challenge was to develop a suitably demanding academic science curriculum that was coupled to thoroughly challenging experimental work for pupils in a school with no specialist science teachers.
The headteacher proposed appointing a graduate scientist in residence who would provide science expertise and encourage high quality science learning across the school.
Her final hypothesis was that, as pupils developed their enquiry skills in science, these skills would help their learning of other subjects. She also expected that pupils’ cross-curricular literacy skills would increase as pupils started to talk about ‘science questions’ with their teachers and each other and then report their findings accurately both orally and in writing formal reports.