#ASEchat summary – Published schemes of work – how do you choose and use them in science?

schemes cloud

I opened the chat by asking “Published schemes of work – how do you choose and use them in science?”  Viciascience responded by saying he imagines that every school has a standby set of textbooks and others joined in by discussing their purchased schemes (see chat transcript for details).  ViciaScience asked the going rate for a KS3 scheme and GregtheSeal responded with the figure of £3000.

Deepexperience1 suggested we get out those textbooks for the 1950s and Cleverfiend responded by saying if there is a match with content then why not?  Deepexperience1 went on to say that modern schemes relied too heavily on worksheets, and cleverfiend replied by saying that being in special measures at his school had resulted in a move away from worksheets.  MissWatford confirmed that they are used for last minute cover work whilst gregtheseal said they good for independent research.

Some chatters had an issue with the length of lessons not being matched to their schools, for example two chat participants had 100 minute lessons.  TFScientist thought that a department made scheme is best, then you get a format for your lessons and everyone is invested in the scheme.

ViciaScience suggested that iBooks might be the way forward with cheap publishing and purchasing costs.  Gregtheseal suggested a crowd-sourced book published through iTunes. HRogerson told us that most publishers are supporting ebooks (although many require a subscription rather than purchasing them), Hodder are letting you buy ebooks through Amazon.  It was felt that there was an issue of quality control when crowd sourcing materials and despite many of the ASE members having been involved in writing schemes in the past, there wasn’t a single scheme that received universal praise from chat participants.

ViciaScience asked about a central skeleton scheme of work and Cleverfiend raised the prospect of another QCA scheme being a bad idea.  Some people like the idea of a scheme and HRogerson pointed out that at least the QCA scheme being widely adopted let you mix and match resources from different sources.

a reminder: how to request your observation notes from Ofsted

I recently wrote some posts about requesting your evidence forms from Ofsted.  One of the benefits of being in special measures is that you get plenty of attention from Ofsted.


Despite having been jointly observed and receiving feedback by my head, I still wanted to see my observation notes and what had been written about my lesson.  I’ve attached a copy of the feedback (part of a section 8 monitoring visit) so you can see what you get back.

S5 evidence form

All it takes is a quick email:

The address you need to use is ‘informationrequest@ofsted.gov.uk
The email I sent is below – I included a scanned copy of my driving licence
I would like to request a copy of the S5 evidence forms completed during the recent section 8 monitoring inspection of my school.  Hopefully the information below will help you to identify the forms in question.
Home address
Contact number
Date of lesson
Time of lesson
Year group
Name of inspector
Details of lesson content
I’d be interested to hear from other people that have requested their observation notes like me :)


My science GCSE revision/support site – your help please


When I started running GCSE science alongside our existing L1 BTEC Applied Science (FLT) I realised that my students would need a little bit of extra help if they were ever going to pass the exam. Many of them (remember I teach in a special school) struggle to remember what we did last week, so the chances of remembering what we over two years seems very ambitious.

I thought I had a solution – a supporting website that I could put on video and revision links, not a revision guide (there are plenty of paper revision guides available) but a supplement to what happened in class.  I registered the domain and set up a website and I thought I was ready to go.

Unfortunately there was one thing I overlooked.  My own time.  I had misjudged the amount of time that being a school leader in a special measures school would consume.  I teach a 60% timetable, am the second in the school, and my workload means that I’m out of the house for almost 12 hours a day as well as working at home too.

To protect my sanity something had to give, and it ended up being the website. Unfortunately, as with many things in life, the further behind you get the harder it is to catch up.  With that in mind I have two choices open to me:

  • drop the site and allow the domain to lapse
  • find a sucker volunteer (or several volunteers) to contribute to the site

It’s over to you – if you think this is something that your students would find useful then feel free to contact me if you have time to contribute.   Alternatively if you feel that this is a waste of time (or that there is something else out there that will serve my purpose) then leave a comment below.

Image © wenday on Flickr

Free science literacy resources from the author of William’s Words in Science

IWWcells‘ve written before about William’s Words in Science (here) and his resources for cells (here) and food/digestion (here).  While at was at the ASE annual conference last month I met the author, Dr William Hirst in person.  I was pleased to see him selling his excellent resources at his stand, and more importantly I was pleased to see other people buying them.  If you haven’t seen his resources, read my reviews linked above and visit William’s site (if you buy anything, be sure to tell him I sent you – note I don’t receive any commission or financial kickback, I just happen to rate his resources!)

More importantly while I was at his stand I discovered that William has many free resources that are available for any one to download from his site.  These resources showcase the strategies that are used in his books and can be used to drop into your lessons.  I would like to hope that some of my readers will try the resources and feed back to William (contact details are available on his site).

If you want an idea of what is available, William gave me permission to host a selection of these resources here – alternatively bookmark his site which will be updated more often than this blogpost.

Williams Word Games in Science


#ASEchat summary – How are you developing the numeracy of your students

numeracy cloud

With the promotion of maths and science (together with technology/engineering) as STEM subjects, no one can deny the links between science and maths and the importance of maths within science.   The question arose “How are you developing the numeracy of your students?” which was posed to ASEchat participants.

Cleverfiend (who was leading the discussion) opened by saying he got positive feedback from Ofsted for using mathematical terms and units when talking about lungs.  MrsRWood shared her numeracy placemat https://www.dropbox.com/s/5vc7q58pbne83a9/Numeracy%20Placemat.pdf which met with universal approval from all taking part.  MrsRWood explained that it was extremely useful when having to explain what the mean is for the 100th time!  A publication was mentioned as a useful resource – “AKSIS Getting to Grips with Graphs” for those who are able to access a copy, perhaps at work.  ashl3ylaw said they are working with the maths department to create a similar resource  working with the maths department.  Others reinforced the importance of collaboration between maths and science departments.

No matter what discipline you teach there is no getting away from maths, ViciaScience pointed out that ratio and proportionality are the bedrock of some biology topics whilst others referred to statistics in A-level. DrDsScienceDays pointed out that orders of magnitude are useful all the way up to KS5.  Ange_K1 pointed out that lots of students could use a calculator but forgot to press = at the appropriate points so made mistakes, others saw that too in their lessons.

The topic changed to graphs and what level in maths would include the skills of choosing axes and labels etc for drawing a graph in science.  Hrogerson said that drawing a graph every lesson had helped improve grades for one group.

NeedhamL56 referred to an app from @NPL  about fundamental physics constants.   TeacherChemist said “I like to get students to draw graphs by hand to appreciate scaling rather than relying on Excel”.  Ashl3ylaw gives the maths department some real data to use when they teach the skills in their lessons. A_Weatherall referred to the triangles that are used when teaching formulae saying he doesn’t like them because they hide the underlying maths, and other chat participants agreed.

ViciaScience suggested the Merlin plugin for biology stats for Excel available from http://www.heckgrammar.co.uk/index.php?p=10310

NeedhamL56 recommended the old National Strategy materials for working with graphs available at http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/resource/7395/aspects-of-how-science-works and Cleverfiend said a lot of the mini-booster materials (from the old SATS days) were very useful.

There was discussion over lines of best fit in science and maths, and whether they should be curves or straight lines.  Again it was agreed that maths and science departments should be talking to each other.

The final word comes from ashl3ylaw who says their solution is to have a physicist teaching maths and a mathematician teaching physics!

The full transcript of the chat is available here

Book review: 100 ideas for secondary teachers – outstanding lessons

Before I talk about the book I wanted to give a little background about myself that might put the review into perspective.  I like reading and I read a lot of books, but nearly all fiction.  I find non-fiction and research material tedious and slow going.  I’ve had a number of books about assessment in schools sat on my shelf waiting for me to start reading them – and I’ve never got more than a chapter or two in.  This could have influenced my view of the book, as could the fact that there are lots of ideas in the book that I either use already or can’t use in my setting.

Anyhow on to the book.  I decided to order a copy of this book because my twitter stream was full of people who had purchased the book.  Others were saying how they had used some of the ideas from the book and had good observation feedback as a result.  I decided to part with my cash – opting for a paper copy rather than buying for my Kindle (I think reference material is better on paper).

The book arrived and the first thing that struck me is the size – it’s a compact paperback with small print.  The pages aren’t full of text but instead the main text flows down the centre of the page in paragraphs with ‘tips’ and the odd hashtag (yes – hashtags in a paper book!) down the sides.

My initial feeling when flicking through the book was one of disappointment – I didn’t think the book lived up to the ‘hype’ on Twitter, although you can’t fault the book for that.  When I go on CPD I always look for things packaged up that I can take away with me and slot straight into my own teaching.  I did like some of the ideas in this book but the majority of the book left me feeling distinctly unimpressed.

If you follow lots of teachers on Twitter (like I do) then you come to pigeon hole some of the more prolific posters into certain stereotypes.  Reading this book made me think of the ‘trendy’ teacher, using ideas and terminology that is in fashion.  That might just be my opinion (I am getting a little long in the tooth now and my teaching styles are starting to look a little old school) but a review is an expression of one’s opinion.  The title also made me think that the book would be 100 teaching ideas but instead some the ideas relate to the culture you build that leads to outstanding learning – an important but subtle difference.

Some of the chapters were of little use to me – for example the chapter 23 is called #bananas.  After a page full of text we learn that it might be useful to use your marking to inform planning (perhaps next a chapter about teaching your granny to suck eggs?).  Another chapter talks about the gherkin in a burger.  I read this expecting some tangy tasty tip I could throw into my lesson – but the chapter concludes with a short list suggested by tweeting teachers about lesson planning.

Other chapters that I didn’t find useful referred to strategies and ideas that I already use like mini-whiteboards (these are hardly new, they appeared with the National Strategies).  A chapter is devoted to Bloom’s taxonomy which all staff at our school use when planning (we starting to move out of special measures).  Another chapter refers to Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce (which Dylan Wiliam explains well here) which I’ve run training on in my own school.

I’m painting rather a negative picture of this book and that doesn’t mean that it isn’t useful to others (and Twitter will bear witness to this).  My setting (special education) means that some of the ideas in the book aren’t relevant to my teaching, and the nature of my students means we do a lot of hands-on practical activities.

If you are the type of teacher who needs to be told how to use a TA (perhaps by involving them in planning…) then this could be the book for you.  I’ve tried returning to this book several times in case my opinion changed and unfortunately it hasn’t.  I have several teachers and school leaders in my family and when we were catching up over Christmas the topic of this book came up.  I wasn’t sure if to be relieved or disappointed that we shared the same opinion of it.

Don’t let this review put you off – I’m in a different position to lots of teachers having accessed and run CPD for teachers, ASTs and school leaders I doubt I fitted into the target audience for this book.  I will continue to flick through this book and share it with my colleagues at work who might find it more useful than I did.

If you have bought or read this book then please do tell me which parts you found useful so I know which bits to revisit.  Alternatively I’d love to hear from you if didn’t find the book useful.

Ofsted news that every science teacher should know about


I know some of my internet connected colleagues are like me and their tendrils reach all over the place.  For those of you who are less connected these updates are worth being aware of.

The first is a pair of blog posts by twitter celebrity @OldAndrew who comments on Ofsted and their work.  I’ll leave you to read the full text of his posts (post 1, post2), but OldAndrew has picked out some very useful information from the recent update to the Subsidiary Guidance, published to support the Ofsted Inspection Framework.  The tone of the guidance suggests that Ofsted may stop looking for certain styles of learning, and that they may be more accepting of traditional teaching like teacher talk (in certain circumstances).  The full text of the subsidiary guidance can be found here 

The second update is the re-release of the Ofsted subject guidance which is used for school subject surveys.  Whilst these are not intended for normal section 5 inspections, they are still useful to read and be aware of.  I have read about discrepancies in the tone and content of these when compared to the new framework and subsidiary guidance, but read them and file them as a useful reference material.

The final update is a little older, but may have passed many science teachers by.  In November Ofsted released a report titled “Maintaining Curiosity” which was a survey into both primary and secondary science.  For those who want a brief read, a summary is available so you don’t have to read the full report.  Experienced science teachers will not be surprised by many of the points made!