Science in the National Curriculum from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 : process, procedure and practice to counter disjunction in pupils' learning.
The question considered in this thesis is the extent to which the National Curriculum
for science education achieved, in the first five years, one of the stated aims; 'to help
children's progression ... and help secure continuity and coherence' (DESIWO, 1987b)
during their transition from the primary to the secondary phase of education
The issues which contributed to the disjunction in pupils' learning in science at
the primary-secondary interface prior to the implementation of the National
Curriculum are identified through a review of developments in science education,
with an emphasis on the primary phase, during the last century. The findings of a
two year investigation are presented and discussed. The study followed a sample of
pupils through their final year of the primary phase and first year of the secondary
phase shortly after the implementation of the National Curriculum. The report
focuses on the initiatives, processes, procedures and practices introduced by one
Local Education Authority (LEA) and by three primary phase schools and four
secondary phase schools within the same LEA, to promote a shared view of the
science curriculum among teachers in the primary and secondary phase and thus
facilitate continuity and progression in pupils' learning. Later work from other
researchers is considered to show that the findings of this investigation are still
relevant and useful.
The research used a qualitative approach to investigate the following issues as
they related directly to continuity and progression in science education during the
• In-service education and training initiatives to enhance the subject knowledge of
teachers in the primary phase.
• The procedures adopted for the formulation or modification of schemes of work for
science in the primary and secondary phase.
• Assessment procedures and practices implemented.
• Liaison arrangements between primary and secondary phase teachers.
• Strategies utilised by teachers in the management and organisation of pupils'
learning in science at the macroscopic and microscopic levels in year 6 and year 7.
The findings extend those of previous research. They show that within a sample
of schools in one LEA, in all the issues studied in the research, the implementation of
the National Curriculum for science education was ineffective in addressing the issues
which contributed to disjunction in pupils' learning during transition. It also failed to
institute a shared view of the science curriculum among teachers in the primary and
secondary phase. The introduction of the National Curriculum was not in itself
sufficient to overcome difficulties such as the lack of confidence in teachers
(particularly in the primary phase) to teach aspects of science in which they lacked
qualifications or previous experience. It was also found that other policies,
particularly Local Management of Schools and the decline of the ability of Local
Education Authorities to develop policies in all schools within the Authority, meant
that there was no local coordination available for implementation of the National
Curriculum. One major conclusion drawn from the findings of this research is that the
decision to perpetuate a break in pupils' education at the point of transition through
the introduction of discrete Key Stages for the primary and secondary phases of
education not only impeded, but exacerbated the resolution of issues which
contributed to a lack of continuity and progression in pupils' learning in science
during the transitional phase.