I have been through the key stage 3 proposed national curriculum this evening. I want to think about the transition for out current year 7 students from the QCA units that we are currently using to the new GCSE courses that they will encounter thanks to Michael Gove's change to the curriculum.Although I accept that we didn't really get the chance to prepare students from year 7 for the changes we experienced in 2006 and 2011, I still want to be as ready as possible.
I also should add at this point that I subscribe to the "fight your battles" philosophy and I don't want to argue against the NC change - that would be a waste of energy. But we should try and get something we can work with and understand.
The main things that concerns me are 1) I don't understand what some of the statements expect and 2) that there seems to be more added in than taken out.
Out go microbes and disease, changes during adolescence and classification, in comes plant reproduction (including pollination and the importance of it), the importance of DNA in inheritance, the structure of the amoeba, mitochondria, bacteria in the digestive system and a greater emphasis on the skeleton.
Personally, I think it could be worse. See what you think by taking a look below.
Many will recognise the 1999 national curriculum. Although we had a new curriculum in 2008, this is the curriculum we are using in my school. The 1999 curriculum statements can be identified because they have orange titles and the 2015 proposed curriculum has blue subtitles.
I don't disagree that mitochondria should be added into the list of organelles described by students in key stage 3, the thinking through science books already mention mitochondria for example. However, it will mean that we have to consider how cells are taught as it will be useful for students to understand respiration so that they can link the function to the mitochondria, with confusing students with the misconception that respiration and breathing are the same thing.
I don't really see what the understanding of diffusion as a method of getting substances into cells brings and why that seems to replace specialised cells, but both are difficult concepts, and specialised cells is included in other aspects of the biology curriculum. Diffusion is something that can be added to the descriptions of how oxygen and "food" get into cells, so I can see where this would fit into the curriculum I teach.
The structure of the Amoeba and Euglena are additions I am not clear about. The two vacuoles in the amoeba will just add a layer of confusion that could lead to misconceptions about the plant cell that I don't think is necessary if this curriculum is about science for general knowledge. If the vacuole is to be ignored then are we really teaching the students to classify the different classification kingdoms?
*1d, Fertilisation is discussed later.
I actually like the idea of doing more about the skeleton, it does capture the imagination of the students. I asked other science teachers using twitter about "measurement of the force exerted by different muscles" the response made me think as I realise that this is a good topic to link into fitness and could be engaging for the students. See http://www.getinthezone.org.uk/schools/ages-11-19/ages-14-16/
The addition of the food tests to the curriculum doesn't add extra pressure onto science teachers as it is part of what the majority of us do. Actually I quite like that it is there because it shows that the government expect a level of practical science.
In the same way the statement "calculations of the energy requirements in a health daily diet" I don't mind as it implies that we have to include numeracy in how we teach science, which I agree with. I would interpret this as asking the students to use information I provide them with to work out what they could eat in a day and stay within the limits of what is required for a healthy teenager. I don't mind this, but I did it at primary school and I wonder that it will be a repeat of an activity students have done before?
I don't understand the "importance of bacteria in the digestive system", as my knowledge doesn't exten beyond the Yalkult adverts!
In terms of what we cover already, only the mention of asthma seems to be new.
I am unsure what the statement "including the breakdown of organic molecules to enable all the other chemical processes necessary for life" entails. We used to teach that "chemical reactions occur in the cytoplasm - will this be enough now?
It concerns me that there is no mention of the bloodstream in the proposed 2015 national curriculum as I think it is important that students are aware of the circulatory system as this helps to pull respiration, cells, breathing and exercise together.
Interestingly disease is no longer part of key stage 3 science, although students will have to learn about bacteria as part of anaerobic respiration and the function of them in the digestive system. Checking the 2015 GCSE curriculum all of the disease related content from the QCA unit 8C now seems to be in GCSE biology. There was always a lot of overlap, but I don't see that as a bad thing. I think that it is important that students understand about vaccinations and immunisation.
Those involved in PHSE and sex education are very concerned by the absence of statement f from the 1999 national curriculum in the 2015 proposed version. I don't blame them. Young people are interested in what is going to happen to them.
The level of detail added to the reproduction of plants is going to require a lot more time in the teaching. Although I like the link of the pollination of plant to human food production in light of the issues with the bee population.
VARIATION AND INHERITANCE
Classification is missing from the 2015 proposed national curriculum. I am sad about that, but not too sad. Due to CASE I am lead to believe that classifying is a key skill to be developing with out students, however they often come from primary school able to classify the main animal groups and find the classification of the plants boring and it is difficult to engage them. Classification can still be taught via the periodic table and more subtly in biology.
The level of detail now needed for inheritance is pretty vast. I have taught this to year 9 as part of an early start to GCSE science and they struggled a little bit, but were engaged in it and interested.
I have to admit that the bottom two statements in the 2015 proposed national curriculum don't mean a great deal to me. I would hope that there would be some examples in the supporting notes of the new national curriculum when it is finally published.
This exists in some of the other areas in the 2015 proposed curriculum, but the emphasis has certainly moved. However, we will probably end up covering all the aspects once statements like "niches and the role of variable in enabling closely-related living things to survive in the same ecosystem" are unpacked into teaching activities.