NQT+1: leading on curriculum changes and the joys of an inflatable planetarium

Daniel has been reorganising the school’s Key Stage 3 curriculum and is delighted that students will be studying more space physics in the years before they make A-level choices.

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When I took on the responsibility of leader of Key Stage 3 science in my school at the end of my NQT year last summer, I did not know that it was all about to change and that I would be leading major changes.

But in September, the government announced changes to the National Curriculum. Within those changes, the science curriculum is to be made more challenging across all age groups, starting with primary school and early secondary school.

So it falls to me to lead the changes within our schemes of work, assessments and resources so that we are able to teach to this new curriculum next academic year. And whilst it is a large and time-consuming task, it is an excellent opportunity to revamp and revitalise our old schemes of work and introduce some new and exciting content into them.

This mammoth task would be too much for me to manage on my own and it is not expected that I do the work alone, so it is up to me to delegate work out to the rest of the department. My department consists of about 16 teachers, with a huge variety of experience in teaching, some of whom have been in the profession for 30+ years.

My biggest concern was that I would have to give teachers more work to do on top of their busy workload. But I was also worried about having to direct members of staff with far more experience of doing this sort of work, especially in knowing how to remain in line with government and OFSTED expectations.

Mostly, my concerns were unfounded and the teachers have been very helpful and understanding that the task needs to be done; some of the teachers were even quite excited to have an opportunity to create some more opportunities for engaging new activities.

There is also a nice upside to all this extra work. Whilst I do often join the ranks of teachers who like to grumble about never-ending changes and frustrating interference with systems within education, one of the major bonuses for the new curriculum is a reintroduction of several topics to do with space.

Since I began teaching, I have been endlessly asked by pupils, “Sir, when do we do space?” My answer often disappoints them as we do not cover space much in Years 7 and 8 and only a little bit more at GCSE. It’s only at A-level that astronomy and astrophysics have a major slice of the teaching time and, by that point, the size of class has dwindled somewhat.

Just the other week, an inspiring teacher at my school rented an inflatable planetarium for a week and we took the opportunity to showcase it to as many Year 7 pupils as we could. The response from the highest sets to the lowest sets was excellent and, whilst it didn’t tie-in perfectly with what we were teaching at the time, it just showed how fascinated school children are about the universe and its mind-boggling mysteries.

In fact, when we showed it to our sixth-form physics students, their response mirrored the wonder that I saw in the Year 7 pupils’ faces as they excitedly pointed out stars, galaxies, planets and positions of nebulae and countless other points of interest. Many of them had never seen a clear night sky as our school is based in East London.

So I’m really excited – with the new curriculum pushing us to teach more space physics, it can only help encourage more pupils to take up physics at A-level.

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