Sunday, 7 April 2013

Proposed Changes to the National Curriculum 2: chemistry

My previous post looked at the key stage 3 biology section of the proposed national curriculum from 2015. In this one look at the chemistry section of the key stage 3 curriculum. Again I compare it to the 1999 national curriculum as this is the one that we use in my school because we follow the QCA units.

The images with orange headings are from the 1999 curriculum and the blue headings are from the 2015 proposed curriculum.

I have found the chemistry national curriculum a lot harder to compare directly from 1999 to 2015.

The main omissions are the sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks, the concept of conservation of mass during chemical and physical changes, the relationship between temperature and solubility, carbonates also seem to be missing.

The additions include studying the atmosphere, and "ceramics, polymers and composites" (for such a little sentence this opens up a vast section of chemistry), endothermic and exothermic reactions and using carbon to extract metals from their oxides.

Currently I have to decide if we should change the earth science units taught in year 8 and perhaps move the 9G and H units in order that we can fill in the areas that the students will have missed on polymers and ceramics. I will look at the key stage 4 curriculum before deciding.

Please do comment if you see something that I have overlooked.



The first statement in the 1999 KS3 chemistry section talks about classification of materials and interestingly as classification has gone from biology it also seems to be missing from chemistry too. 

I wonder if using the melting and boiling points to work out the state of a material would still be expected even though it is no longer explicit, (see below) we still have to teach the physical properties of the elements. 

There are glimpses if you look at the "periodic table" section of the 2015 national curriculum.

However, in the new national curriculum only the properties of the elements are considered and not materials in general. And the last statement about "with respect to acidity" does that mean how they react with acid, their pH, or both?

The particle theory seems to be very similar, the energy changes involved in state changes was present in the 1999 national curriculum. And we do already teach that the particles move/vibrate according to their state. 


The mixtures aspect of the proposed 2015 national curriculum seems similar to the 1999 national curriculum. And it is the first time that experimental techniques are mentioned in the chemistry section. I don't disagree with the idea of defining what a pure substance is - I teach this as part of 7H, so including it explicitly won't cause an issue. What is missing is the relationship between solubility and temperature and the emphasis on understanding solutions, as well as the conservation of mass.


The change to the Earth Science section of the key stage 3 national curriculum seems to be the greatest. I like teaching 8G&H. 

However I am pleased to see global warming and the atmosphere being addressed at key stage 3, as well as recycling. 


It is interesting to see that the statement about conservation of mass in a chemical or physical reaction is not present in the proposed 2015 national curriculum. It is an abstract idea, but something I like to cover as it is part the story of how oxygen was discovered. 

Rather than give a general statement about how chemical reactions are useful in everyday life, the proposed curriculum lists those chemical reactions. I can't think of where thermal decomposition occurs in the QCA units, but the other types of chemical reaction we have to teach will not mean a big change. 


This is new to key stage 3 national curriculum, but I believe that it is a part of the "using chemical reactions" QCA unit, so again does not represent a big change.



I think that the main change is including the idea of using carbon to extract metals from their ores. This is interesting when rocks have not been studied as part of the 2015 national curriculum, but perhaps this gives the potential to add the usefulness of rocks as a raw material. 


I don't think that the proposed 2015 national curriculum presents much of a change to the reactions of acids. Although the last statement needs to be corrected to show that when acids react with metals a salt an hydrogen (not water) is formed.


  1. The "Earth Science" content seems to have all been moved to the geography programme of study. From p6 of the draft geography PoS:

    "Pupils should be taught to:
    ... understand, through the use of detailed place-based exemplars at a variety of scales, the key processes in ... physical geography relating to: glaciation, plate tectonics, rocks, soils, weathering, geological timescales, weather and climate, rivers and coasts..."

    However, formation of the Earth and its atmosphere are missing altogether.

    I'd question the inclusion of recycling in the "Earth Science" section. This would, I think, be better addressed in that Pandora's Box line about polymers and other materials (and relates to conservation of mass, and the design and technology programme of study).

    Oh, and THANK YOU for sharing your incredibly detailed analysis, and really helpful comparison with the 1999 version. Here are my first thoughts, which pale in comparison to your titanic efforts!

  2. The removal of the rocks topic is presumably to reduce overlap with geography. The metal vs non-metal oxides part - I assume - is to stress the point about metal oxides being bases (which can be built into the acids vs bases part of the curriculum), whereas non-metal oxides are acidic (which can be built into the environmental chemistry part about acid rain). We can avoid aluminium oxide at this stage ;-)

    The materials science bit about ceramics et al. seems stupid. You could easily expand that into an entire topic, but it will inevitably end up being a single lesson thrown in somewhere.

    I do thermal composition of carbonates as part of conservation of mass anyway, and will continue to include it as conservation of mass is such an important concept.

    The reduction of compounds with carbon can easily be incorporated into lessons (very basic!) redox, although I agree the omission of rocks makes this confusing!

    The difference between bases and alkalis is apparently now mandatory, but other than that I don't think you've missed anything.

    We're essentially re-writing our KS3 schemes at present, and to be honest I don't see a massive amount added that we weren't going to put in anyway as prep for KS4. The major differences appear to be the introduction of new terminology (exo/endothermic, torque in physics etc.). Thanks for the detailed ananlysis though!