Next generation scientists

Developing future generations of scientists is vital to the UK’s economy, so it is important to engage pupils in science from the start of their education. The Primary Science Quality Mark, developed from University of Hertfordshire research, is a unique award programme helping to raise the profile of science teaching and learning in primary schools.

“[Having PSQM at the school has] reinstated science as a core subject and re-energised staff into planning and teaching exciting science lessons for the children. It has given the children more hands-on opportunities; emphasised the importance of science; given them a deeper understanding of the world around them; given them aspirations.”

Since 2009, children no longer sit national science tests in their last year at primary school. The Government’s decision to replace the externally marked science statutory assessment test, or SAT, with teacher-led assessment was intended to free teachers from ‘teaching to the test’ and enable them to deliver broader, inspiring and more practical scientific experiences.

Many teachers, however, found that the profile of science in their schools fell following the removal of the science SAT. An increased focus on testing in English and maths and on schools’ league table performances has led to the loss of science teaching time in favour of early exam preparation, prompting HM Chief Inspector of schools to warn about the ‘squeezing out’ of science from the primary curriculum.

A pioneering initiative developed by the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Education is helping teachers and schools to challenge this trend. First devised in 2008 and rolled out nationally in 2010, the Primary Science Quality Mark (PSQM) is a national award scheme which supports schools to evaluate, strengthen and celebrate their science teaching, learning and leadership.

Celebrating excellence

Led by the individual school, the PSQM programme works with existing and new networks across the UK to provide local support for primary science.

The Primary Science Quality Mark, developed through research at the University’s School of Education, is the only school improvement programme promoted and validated by Ofsted.

Jane Turner,
PSQM Director, University of Hertfordshire

The PSQM programme encourages science subject leaders to join a local PSQM hub, where they can meet and share ideas with other subject leaders. Through the hub they are able to access resources and support for science teaching, including information about current practice in primary science.

“The process of gaining the [PSQM] award brings benefits beyond the certificate because it requires school leaders to evaluate their provision and justify their science curriculum as being fit for promoting good learning.”

Through a year’s programme of face to face professional development and online mentoring, the subject leader works with colleagues across the school to develop all aspects of the school’s science teaching and learning. By completing this process of self-evaluation successfully, schools can achieve a PSQM award at three levels.

Widely supported by schools, head teachers, national science societies and education organisations, by 2017, 11% of English schools had a PSQM award. There are now more than 80 active PSQM hubs, encompassing some 600 primary schools in all parts of the UK, plus British Forces schools in Cyprus and Germany, and British Schools in Dubai, the Netherlands, the USA, Singapore and Indonesia and bilingual schools in Spain.

Supported by an ongoing partnership between the University and the Primary Science Teaching Trust, PSQM continues to carry out collaborative research into primary science practice.

By raising the profile of science in primary schools, PSQM is inspiring today’s children to become tomorrow’s world-leading scientists.