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Why science matters: Getting students excited about chemistry and beyond

20/12/2018 Anthony

Science is one of the key pillars of education around the world, yet in the United Kingdom we are facing not only a shortage of scientifically-literate primary school teachers, but also a lack of dedicated teaching time. Just 42% of primary school teachers spend the recommended two or more hours per week teaching science, and Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has expressed concern about science being squeezed out of primary school curriculums. While the focus on science in schools appears to be diminishing, its dominance in everyday life – particularly future careers – is only accelerating. With 2.4 million STEM jobs expected to go unfilled this year and falling grades in GCSE science, it’s clear that more needs to be done to inspire students to engage with the subject. For teachers at all levels, the opportunity couldn’t be clearer.

Every child should have a background in science

While not every pupil will be a budding Isaac Newton or Marie Curie, they should all have, at the very least, a solid understanding of basic scientific principles. While it can be difficult for children to grasp, science is all around them – from the transport they take into school in the morning to the trees that produce oxygen for them to breathe – and can give them the skills to ask questions, collect information and solve problems.  

Professor John Baruch, director of the Leeds Beckett University Centre for Education for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, says that science is at risk of being left behind in primary schools, despite it being the backbone of new technologies - such as robotics and AI - that will play an integral role in societies of the future. He says British education should be science-based in order for children to prosper in the future, providing hands-on experience with materials and models as well as an understanding of the practical sciences of biology, chemistry and physics. As a fundamental pillar of innovation, human advancement and global competitiveness, science helps the world to advance – and helps children learn to question the world around them.

Make a difference in your teaching

Students with good teachers can make progress twice as fast as those without, according to Wellcome, yet many primary school teachers have ‘inadequate’ knowledge of basic science, as says IVF pioneer Lord Winston. So how can you improve your science teaching skills and better engage your students?

One of the best ways to get pupils to connect with science is by incorporating practical, hands-on activities into your lesson plans. Practical lesson ideas can include classic chemical reaction demonstrations, or activities such as egg in a bottle (which demonstrates pressure) and generating electricity with a comb and lightbulb. Anything that pupils can try out themselves – and can be linked to a theoretical science learning – will help them to understand more about this subject.

Research shows most parents believe their children would be more engaged with science lessons if teaching used the most advanced technology, and while hi-tech products and software may not be available in all schools, teachers should look for ways to incorporate technology in their science lessons. Augmented and virtual reality can be one cost-effective way of doing this, with some programmes accessible through mobile apps and low-cost headsets. Try Anatomy 4D, AR Cell and Science AR to get you started.

Finally, it’s essential that you are enthusiastic about and committed to bringing science to life for pupils. Wellcome research shows this has a direct impact on how engaged pupils are in science lessons. Professional development courses, such as Teaching Personnel’s CPD Academy or SKE courses, can help you strengthen your specialist subject knowledge and overall teaching abilities.

Find your next science teacher opportunity

Whether you teach science at a primary or secondary teacher level, we could have the perfect opportunity to help progress your career. Take a look at our current vacancies or speak to us about how we can help.

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