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National Curriculum

Science key stage 3 - Programme of study

Statutory content

Programme of study for key stage 3

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The programme of learning is made up of:

Importance of Science key stage 3

The study of science fires pupils’ curiosity about phenomena in the world around them and offers opportunities to find explanations. It engages learners at many levels, linking direct practical experience with scientific ideas. Experimentation and modelling are used to develop and evaluate explanations, encouraging critical and creative thought. Pupils learn how knowledge and understanding in science are rooted in evidence. They discover how scientific ideas contribute to technological change – affecting industry, business and medicine and improving quality of life. They trace the development of science worldwide and recognise its cultural significance. They learn to question and discuss issues that may affect their own lives, the directions of societies and the future of the world.

Key concepts of Science key stage 3

There are a number of key concepts that underpin the study of science and how science works. Pupils need to understand these concepts in order to deepen and broaden their knowledge, skills and understanding.

1.1 Scientific thinking

  1. Using scientific ideas and models to explain phenomena and developing them creatively to generate and test theories.

  2. Critically analysing and evaluating evidence from observations and experiments.

1.2 Applications and implications of science

  1. Exploring how the creative application of scientific ideas can bring about technological developments and consequent changes in the way people think and behave.

  2. Examining the ethical and moral implications of using and applying science.

1.3 Cultural understanding

  1. Recognising that modern science has its roots in many different societies and cultures, and draws on a variety of valid approaches to scientific practice.

1.4 Collaboration

  1. Sharing developments and common understanding across disciplines and boundaries.

Explanatory text

Explain phenomena: Science is not yet able to explain all phenomena but the process of developing scientific understanding constantly generates new and sometimes conflicting evidence. This in turn gives rise to new explanations and ideas.

Theories: Scientific theories are consistent, comprehensive, coherent and extensively evidenced explanations of aspects of the natural world. They can, at least in principle, be tested by observations and/or experiments.

Ethical and moral implications: Scientists, individuals and society need to think about the balance between the advantages and disadvantages of new developments before making decisions (eg examining issues relating to selective breeding and genetic engineering of plants and animals, to the production of potentially hazardous chemicals, and to the use of nuclear energy). The way scientific developments are achieved can also raise ethical and moral issues, for example experiments on animals to produce drugs that may prolong human life.

Sharing developments and common understanding: Scientists of all disciplines and nationalities communicate scientific ideas and understanding using mathematics and internationally recognised conventions and terminology. Scientific investigation is predominantly undertaken by groups of scientists with different specialisms working in collaboration with each other.

Key processes of Science key stage 3

These are the essential skills and processes in science that pupils need to learn to make progress.

2.1 Practical and enquiry skills

Pupils should be able to:

  1. use a range of scientific methods and techniques to develop and test ideas and explanations

  2. assess risk and work safely in the laboratory, field and workplace

  3. plan and carry out practical and investigative activities, both individually and in groups.

2.2 Critical understanding of evidence

Pupils should be able to:

  1. obtain, record and analyse data from a wide range of primary and secondary sources, including ICT sources, and use their findings to provide evidence for scientific explanations

  2. evaluate scientific evidence and working methods.

2.3 Communication

Pupils should be able to:

  1. use appropriate methods, including ICT, to communicate scientific information and contribute to presentations and discussions about scientific issues.

Explanatory text

Wide range of primary and secondary sources: Primary sources such as data logging and secondary sources such as the internet are essential aspects of pupils’ experience of science.

Use appropriate methods, including ICT, to communicate scientific information: For example, digital photography, video or podcasting as alternatives to text-based approaches.


Range and content of Science key stage 3

This section outlines the breadth of the subject on which teachers should draw when teaching the key concepts and key processes.

The study of science should include:

3.1 Energy, electricity and forces

  1. energy can be transferred usefully, stored, or dissipated, but cannot be created or destroyed

  2. forces are interactions between objects and can affect their shape and motion

  3. electric current in circuits can produce a variety of effects.

3.2 Chemical and material behaviour

  1. the particle model provides explanations for the different physical properties and behaviour of matter

  2. elements consist of atoms that combine together in chemical reactions to form compounds

  3. elements and compounds show characteristic chemical properties and patterns in their behaviour.

3.3 Organisms, behaviour and health

  1. life processes are supported by the organisation of cells into tissues, organs and body systems

  2. the human reproductive cycle includes adolescence, fertilisation and foetal development

  3. conception, growth, development, behaviour and health can be affected by diet, drugs and disease

  4. all living things show variation, can be classified and are interdependent, interacting with each other and their environment

  5. behaviour is influenced by internal and external factors and can be investigated and measured.

3.4 The environment, Earth and universe

  1. geological activity is caused by chemical and physical processes

  2. astronomy and space science provide insight into the nature and observed motions of the sun, moon, stars, planets and other celestial bodies

  3. human activity and natural processes can lead to changes in the environment.

Explanatory text

Energy: This includes the properties and behaviour of light and sound, renewable energy resources and emerging technologies such as fuel cells.

Shape and motion: This includes pressure effects, linear motion and turning moments.

Circuits: This includes current and voltage in series and parallel circuits.

Variety of effects: Electrical devices are designed to make use of a variety of effects caused by electric currents, including heating, chemical changes and magnetic effects.

Elements: This includes the development and organisation of elements in the Periodic Table.

Compounds: This includes the different properties of compounds due to the number and type of atoms and their arrangement.

Characteristic chemical properties and patterns: This can be exemplified by the reactions of metals and non-metals, and acids and bases.

Diet, drugs and disease: This includes the importance of healthy eating complemented by regular exercise, and the effect of drugs such as alcohol, tobacco and cannabis on mental and physical health. It also includes the effects of bacteria and viruses, such as those associated with sexually transmitted infections.

Variation: This includes inherited and environmental variation and variation through genetic engineering and selective breeding.

 Behaviour: This includes human and animal behaviour (psychology and ethology).

Geological activity: This includes the rock cycle processes, rock formation and weathering.

Curriculum opportunities of Science key stage 3

During the key stage pupils should be offered the following opportunities that are integral to their learning and enhance their engagement with the concepts, processes and content of the subject.

The curriculum should provide opportunities for pupils to:

  1. research, experiment, discuss and develop arguments

  2. pursue an independent enquiry into an aspect of science of personal interest

  3. use real-life examples as a basis for finding out about science

  4. study science in local, national and global contexts, and appreciate the connections between these

  5. experience science outside the school environment, including in the workplace, where possible

  6. use creativity and innovation in science, and appreciate their importance in enterprise

  7. recognise the importance of sustainability in scientific and technological developments

  8. explore contemporary and historical scientific developments and how they have been communicated

  9. prepare to specialise in a range of science subjects at key stage 4 and consider career opportunities both within science and in other areas that are provided by science qualifications

  10. consider how knowledge and understanding of science informs personal and collective decisions, including those on substance abuse and sexual health

  11. make links between science and other subjects and areas of the curriculum.

Explanatory text

Independent enquiry: This could include using primary sources from experimental work or using secondary sources from desk-based research.

Creativity and innovation: Creativity is an important part of the scientific process. Scientific experimentation can generate new ideas that may not otherwise have been considered, leading to novel discoveries and applications.

Sustainability: This relates to the continuity of economic, social and environmental aspects of human society, as well as the non-human environment. It also incorporates sustainable development: meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. It could include examining issues surrounding the availability of finite resources, waste reduction and recycling, energy conservation and renewable energy resources, and environmental pollution.

Contemporary and historical: Pupils should learn about the global and diverse cultural nature of science, and the contributions made by men and women.

Communicated: This should include an appreciation of how science is represented and sometimes misrepresented in the media and by scientists themselves.

Career opportunities: The knowledge, skills and understanding developed through the study of science are highly regarded by employers. Many career pathways require qualifications in science, but science qualifications do not necessarily lead to laboratory-based occupations.

Substance abuse: This includes the abuse of alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and other drugs, and solvent and volatile substance abuse (see explanatory note for diet, drugs and disease in the ‘Range and content’ section).

Sexual health: This includes issues related to contraception, pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (see explanatory note for diet, drugs and disease in the ‘Range and content’ section).

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