Last updated: 09 Sep 2009
Most newly arrived children will have received some science teaching in their countries of origin although the nature and extent of their experience may vary widely. The collaborative nature of practical work in school science, plus the subject’s use of visual models and analogues, make it an ideal subject for integrating new arrivals who may have English as an additional language (EAL). Some issues that teachers need to consider in planning science teaching and learning for newly arrived children are set out below with suggestions for addressing them.
The national curriculum is the starting point for planning a school curriculum that meets the specific needs of newly arrived children.
The national curriculum inclusion statement outlines how teachers can modify the national curriculum programme of study in science, as necessary, to meet the needs of their pupils. The inclusion statement sets out three principles that are essential to developing a more inclusive curriculum:
- setting suitable learning challenges
- responding to pupils' diverse learning needs
- overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils.
Setting suitable learning challenges
The national curriculum programmes of study set out what most children should be taught at each key stage, but teachers should teach the knowledge, skills and understanding in ways that suit their pupils' abilities. For example, children who have missed prior education may require teaching from earlier stages of the national curriculum programmes of study. Those who are more advanced than their peers may need suitable material selected from a later stage, or additional material at their present stage to broaden their experience of science. The Children with little or no prior education area of this site gives further guidance on this.
Responding to pupils’ diverse learning needs
When planning, teachers should set high expectations and provide opportunities for all children to achieve. Teachers need to remember that children bring to school different experiences, interests and strengths which will influence the way in which they learn. New arrivals will also have valuable insights to offer based on their experiences of life in other parts of the world and the (perhaps somewhat different) science education they have received.
Teachers should plan their approaches to teaching and learning so that all children can take an active part in lessons. It is important to ensure that all children feel secure and able to contribute to lessons, and also that they know their contribution is valued.
Teachers should plan work that is accessible for children with EAL and that also extends their language skills. Teachers need to plan appropriately challenging work for those whose ability and understanding of scientific concepts are in advance of their language skills.
As most new arrivals from overseas will need English-language support, schools need to consider how they support the needs of these children. The English as an additional language section gives further information about language support.
The DCSF has published Access and engagement in science: teaching pupils for whom English is an additional language. Although targeted at teachers of key stage 3 pupils, the guidance contains ideas that are applicable with groups of older primary children. (see useful weblinks )
Supporting scientific vocabulary
Difficulties might arise in science for EAL children because of the use of words that are common both to science and everyday usage but have different meanings in each of these two contexts, for example ‘control’, ‘cell’ and ‘force’. As other children may also be confused by these words the opportunity should be taken to explore the issue and to share strategies for remembering the science meanings, for example adding a new word to a wall chart or shared file on a computer network, together with a strategy for remembering the science meaning.
Teachers may wish to provide vocabulary lists but children need to engage with these actively, for example through games or quizzes, if they are to use them effectively.
Teachers may wish to provide lists of scientific terms with definitions. If using the DCSF/QCA schemes of work the key words can be drawn from the vocabulary section in the key stage 1 and 2 units. Children could build their own bilingual dictionary of key words.
Collaborative learning involves children working together in small groups and helping each other learn. This is a good way of developing a child’s vocabulary.
Access and engagement in science: teaching pupils for whom English is an additional language offers a variety of ways of helping pupils with scientific vocabulary in addition to those suggested above.
The key criterion for decisions about setting and streaming is ability rather than what a pupil has previously studied or their fluency in English. The Initial assessment area of this site gives further guidance on this.
Overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of children
Some children in any group will have particular learning and assessment requirements which, if not addressed, could create barriers to learning. For children newly arrived from overseas these are most often linked to their progress in learning English as an additional language.
Rationale for planning for children learning English as an additional language
This 2008 document highlights that the renewed Framework provides an excellent opportunity for practitioner dialogue in planning for the learning and teaching for bilingual learners who may be beginners or advanced learners of English as an Additional Language (EAL). It emphasises that EAL learners have to learn a new language while also learning the curriculum in the new language. Planning requires careful consideration of the curriculum context and provision of support to enable access to the curriculum.
However, teachers should be alert to the possibility that there are other barriers to learning as well language.
Lack of familiarity with scientific investigation and practical work
Some newly arrived children may be less familiar with investigative methods in science. Extra support in posing questions, planning experiments to answer them and evaluating their methods and results will be needed. Meeting visiting scientists such as science and engineering ambassadors (SEAs) and using resource material showing scientists at work in a variety of contexts may also help them to understand more about how science works and why they need to learn about investigative work.
Science teaching in some countries emphasises the acquisition of knowledge rather than practical skills. Children may have watched experiments being demonstrated but may not have had the opportunity to carry them out themselves. They will need support during practical lessons, for example from teaching assistants or other children (see below), and also extra time to develop their skills.
Others may be experienced at carrying out practical work but may be more accustomed to using non-standard equipment. A UK example using non-standard equipment is 'Things to make and do' (formerly ‘Supermarket science’), which can be found on the Science and plants for schools (SAPS) website. Some new arrivals may have similar approaches to practical work to share with their classmates and they should be encouraged to do so. Showing that they have something of their own to contribute will help to build their confidence and self-esteem.
Bridging lack of familiarity with scientific investigation
Schools might consider implementing induction lessons in science, or adapting existing induction lessons, that develop children’s ability to conduct scientific investigations. Such lessons need not be delivered immediately – they might be delivered to groups of children a few weeks after arrival, and after they have acquired some English. Another strategy is to provide a buddy or science guide. Buddying and befriending schemes can be important in science, especially if children are working collaboratively or using new equipment.
Health and safety and scientific equipment
Children who have done little or no practical work will need help in recognising the dangers that it may pose and in understanding how to minimise these. Some may have had risk assessments carried out on their behalf, or prepared for them, and will need help to make their own. The national curriculum health and safety statement describes what children should be taught with regard to health and safety. It may be helpful to give newly arrived pupils a buddy or science guide who will show them where to find things, how to use equipment and how to work safely.
A school could develop a safety induction guide for those teaching new children who have had little experience of using scientific equipment. Such guidance might involve:
- asking new children about their prior experiences of science and the use of equipment
- establishing individual need
- ensuring that children are taught to use equipment safely
- using bilingual classroom assistants to support induction procedures.
It could be a useful learning experience for existing pupils to devise an electronic or hard-copy safety guide for new arrivals, especially if they themselves arrived in this country part of the way through their education. Being new is an experience everyone can relate to, as all children and teachers were new to the school once.
Sex and relationship education
The science curriculum requires that children be taught about human reproduction. Parents do not have the right to withdraw their children from aspects of sex and relationship education (SRE) covered in the national curriculum for science, but may withdraw them from other sex and relationship education lessons. Some parents may be concerned about the sex education that their children will receive.
Teachers should avoid assumptions about the attitudes to issues such as sexuality shown by people from different religious and cultural backgrounds. Religious groups approach issues of sexuality in many different ways and minority groups often have as wide a range of opinions as the majority group. It is easy to assume that religions offer only negative perspectives on matters of sexuality but this is not generally the case. Such an assumption can affect the self-esteem of young people brought up in a religious tradition. Teachers must avoid perpetuating stereotypes, and should take into account the wide range of opinions within minority groups.
There may be some girls from any cultural background who will not speak openly in mixed groups about issues concerning sex and relationships. Some boys are also more comfortable discussing such issues when girls are not present. It may therefore be appropriate to consider teaching part of the SRE curriculum in single-sex groups to help meet the needs of these children.
While HIV/Aids is not a topic expected to be taught in primary science, it may arise during the course of a science lesson. Teachers should be aware that, as for the other children, this may be an emotive topic if new arrivals’ lives have been affected by it either directly or indirectly, and it will need to be handled sensitively.
The contribution of immigrant scientists and those from ethnic minority groups
Children should be taught to view differences in others positively, whether arising from race, gender, ability, disability, age, religion/belief or sexual orientation. Science teachers can achieve this by using materials that reflect social and cultural diversity and by providing positive images of race, gender, disability, age, religion/belief and sexual orientation, for example by explaining that there were successful methods of immunising against smallpox used in Asia, Africa and China several centuries before Edward Jenner’s work on vaccination took place in England.
Refugee and immigrant scientists have made an enormous contribution to scientific development in the UK and continue to do so. Teachers may wish to consider highlighting this. For example:-
Since 1933 over 100 fellows or foreign members of the Royal Society have arrived in the UK as refugees, five refugee Nobel laureates are : Ernst Chain FRS,Hans Krebs FRS, Max Born FRS, Max Perutz FRS and Dennis Gabor FRS. Lise Meitner, (1878-1968) FRS 1955, was a refugee who achieved a lot of notable firsts for a woman. Her field was Nuclear physics. Lise was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, an achievement for which her colleague Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize. Meitner is often mentioned as one of the most glaring examples of scientific achievement overlooked by the Nobel committee. She was a Jew working in Germany and with the help of friends was able to escape the Nazi regime in 1938
- Children with little or no prior education
- English as an additional language
- A culturally diverse and inclusive curriculum
- DCSF/QCA schemes of work
- National curriculum Key stage 1 & 2 inclusion
- National strategies: inclusion
- Personalised learning
- Personalised learning: a practical guide
- Pedagogy and personalisation
- Planning for pupils learning English as an additional language
- Ethnic minority achievement
- Managing the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant: good practice in primary schools
- NALDIC: Bilingual and EAL specialist teaching assistants
- Science and plants for schools (SAPS)
- Science and engineering ambassadors
- SAPS: Things to make and do