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National Curriculum

Scientific and technological understanding - Programme of learning

Statutory content

Learning in this area should include an appropriate balance of focused subject teaching and well-planned opportunities to use, apply and develop knowledge and skills across the whole curriculum.

See related key actions

The programme of learning is made up of:

Curriculum aims

This area of learning contributes to the achievement of the curriculum aims for all young people to become:

  • successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve
  • confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives
  • responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.

Explanatory text


Why this area of learning is important

Children live in an age of fast-moving science and design and technology. This area of learning is fundamental to exploring, understanding and influencing the natural and made worlds in which we live. It offers a wealth of experiences and ideas that encourage children's natural curiosity and creativity, inspiring awe and wonder. Science supports the development of technology and advances in technology lead to new scientific discoveries, shaping how we live safe and healthy lives in our rapidly changing society.

This area of learning helps children to find new ways of looking at the world and to engage with changing explanations about how the world works. They learn to value ideas and to see talking, thinking and imagining as essential elements in developing understanding and new processes.

Children tackle problems, forming questions, generating and testing ideas and designs and deciding how to seek solutions. They gather and make sense of evidence, test out hypotheses and evaluate processes and outcomes. They learn the possibilities of science, design and technology, inspiring them to become the scientists, engineers, designers and innovators of the future and how to be informed citizens responsive to the needs of others and the world in which they live.

1. Essential knowledge

Children should build secure knowledge of the following:

  1. the power of creative ideas and approaches in science and technology to explore and explain our world, solve problems and bring about change
  2. how information and valid evidence underpin ideas and practice in science and technology
  3. how science and human needs interact to create new knowledge, technologies and products
  4. how the natural and made worlds evolve, are interdependent and interrelated and how humans engage with and influence their environment.

Explanatory text


2. Key skills

These are the skills that children need to learn to make progress:

  1. observe and explore (i) to generate ideas, define problems and pose questions in order to develop investigations and products
  2. engage safely in practical investigations and experiments (i) and gather and record evidence (i) by observation and measurement
  3. apply practical skills to design, make and improve products safely (i) , taking account of users and purposes
  4. communicate (i) and model in order to explain and develop ideas, share findings and conclusions
  5. to continually make systematic evaluations when designing and making, to bring about improvements in processes and outcomes (i) .

Explanatory text

Observe and explore: This includes obtaining information from a range of different primary and secondary sources, including the internet, and using simulations to predict outcomes of experiments and explore environments, parts and products that are hard to access in reality

Engage safely in practical investigations and experiments: This includes selecting suitable tools, equipment and components and controlling risks to themselves and others

Gather and record evidence: This includes using ICT for data logging
Safely: This includes selecting suitable tools, equipment and components and controlling risks to themselves and others
Communicate: This includes using appropriate language to name, describe, explain or evaluate designs, living things, materials, processes and products
Outcomes: This includes reviewing ideas, information and existing products, plans, methods and processes and conclusions and solutions and includes using ICT for organising information

3. Cross-curricular studies

This area of learning should provide opportunities for:

  1. children to develop and apply their literacy, numeracy and ICT skills
  2. personal, emotional and social development
  3. enhancing children's scientific and technological understanding through making links to other areas of learning and to wider issues of interest and importance.

4. Breadth of learning

a. When investigating science and design and technology children should:

  1. share their expertise in subjects that interest them and respond to relevant and current issues, locally and in the national media
  2. apply their knowledge and understanding in real-life contexts, relating it to the world around them and visiting places (i) to learn about science and design and technology
  3. work with experts and enthusiasts to find out how science and design and technology are used and applied in day-to-day life.

b. Children should use investigations and designing and making activities to:

  1. explore a range of familiar and less familiar contexts, environments and products (i)
  2. develop practical skills (i) that will help them to carry out investigations and to make functional products from their design ideas
  3. use design and technology contexts to develop scientific understanding and apply their scientific knowledge to inform their designing and making
  4. work collaboratively towards a common goal by sharing ideas, making compromises, negotiating and providing feedback.

c. When applying their knowledge and understanding of science and design and technology children should:

  1. think creatively and inventively about how things work (i) , identify patterns and establish links between causes and effects
  2. test their ideas through practical activities and review their own and others' ideas and investigations, designs and products
  3. carry out their own investigations, deciding what kind of evidence to collect and what equipment and materials to use
  4. suggest the results they expect and explain their observations and the significance and limitations of the conclusions they draw.

d. When developing their own design ideas children should:

  1. explore ways of improving designs (i) for products, mechanisms, structures, systems and control
  2. investigate different materials (i) , and use them to provide functional solutions to meet user needs, evaluating and refining their products as they work.

Explanatory text

Places: This includes exploring remote or imaginary locations through the use of ICT in order to encounter environments, products, people and places beyond the immediate locality

Products: This includes investigating functional products to find out how they work, how they are made, and how they meet the needs of the intended user and purpose

Practical skills: Practical skills when making purposeful products include choosing equipment, measuring, marking out, cutting and shaping a range of materials, and assembling, joining and combining components and materials accurately and finishing techniques that help to improve the appearance of their product
How things work: This includes living things and products
Explore ways of improving designs: Such as computer-aided design (CAD)
Investigate different materials: This includes making observations in a variety of ways, including electrical and mechanical components, mouldable materials, stiff and flexible sheet materials, and textiles

5. Curriculum progression

The overall breadth of learning should be used when planning curriculum progression. Children should be taught:

Scientific and technological understanding - across the area of learning


E1. to explore and observe (i) in order to collect data and describe (i) and compare their observations and findings

E2. to apply their knowledge and understanding in their practical work (i)

E3. to sort, group and apply information using ICT to inform investigations, designs and made products

E4. to sort, group and identify familiar living things and materials (i) according to observable features and properties

E5. to investigate the properties of everyday materials (i), find out where they come from, how and why they are used, how they can be changed (i) and how they can be disposed of or recycled

E6. to explore changes in the way things move by using push and pull forces

E7. to explore simple mechanisms (i) and structures to investigate how they work

E8. to give instructions to make things happen using programmable devices

E9. to explore simple electrical circuits and find out how electricity is used in the home, at school and in some products

E10. to explore sources of light and sound and how we sense them (i)

E11. to explore ways of looking after living things (i) and keeping them alive and healthy

E12. to investigate their local environment (i) and use their findings to inform actions to care for and improve it.

Explanatory text

Exploreand observe: Including showing interest and curiosity, noticing changes, asking questions, saying what they think might happen and using secondary sources

Describe: This includes recording and communicating using talk, drawings, photographs, prepared tables and pictorial representations of data such as sorting circles, pictograms and scattergrams

Understanding in their practical work: This includes taking account of simple properties of materials when deciding how to cut, shape, combine and join them, and consider users and purposes when designing

Living things and materials: This includes 'living and never-lived', the main external body parts of plants and animals and sensory properties of materials

Everyday materials: Including construction materials, components, textiles and ingredients
Changed: Including simple product investigation, manipulating, heating and cooling
Explore simple mechanisms: For example, a wheel and axle in a toy vehicle
Explore sources of light and sound and how we sense them: This includes light and dark, shadows and reflections and sources of light and sound
Looking after living things: This includes movement, reproduction, sensitivity, growth and nutrition in plants, animals and humans
Investigate their local environment: This includes looking at how, for example, the production of some materials can affect our world


M1. to explore and investigate in order to collect data, analyse it and identify patterns

M2. to use their knowledge and research to inform designs for functional products and plans for investigations

M3. to capture, record and analyse data using a range of equipment (i), including sensors

M4. to evaluate their skills, findings and outcomes using given criteria and offer explanations for their findings

Explanatory text

Equipment: This includes using equipment to observe and measure, predicting different things that might happen, using secondary sources where appropriate, drawing their own tables for straightforward data and completing prepared bar charts


L1. to ask questions that can be answered by different types of investigative activity and decide the best approach (i) to use

L2. to make and record accurate measurements and detailed observations, presenting them appropriately (i), and analyse, interpret and apply them

L3. to explore and explain how significant innovations and inventions (i) have come about and how they have changed the way people live and use ideas from other cultures and times to inform their own experiments, investigations and designs

L4. to devise criteria to evaluate their approaches, products and outcomes

Explanatory text

Decide the best approach: This includes selecting equipment and tools, including ICT, to make their work more effective and efficient, making appropriate observations and measurements, deciding how many measurements and repeats to use and how to record them, and using secondary sources where appropriate

Presenting them appropriately: This includes using scientific and technical language, together with bar charts and prepared line graphs to present results

Innovations and inventions: This includes exploring the contributions of historically significant scientists, technologists and engineers

Scientific and technological understanding - design and technology



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M5. to apply knowledge, skills and understanding when designing and making products using construction materials and textiles

M6. to use a variety of methods (i) to explore design alternatives and to test fitness for purpose of materials, components and techniques

M7. to apply knowledge of mechanical and electrical control when designing and making functional products

M8. to refine sequences of instructions to control events or make things happen using ICT (i)

Explanatory text

Varietyof methods: Including using different components to improve the function of a product

ICT: For example to control events in a lighting sequence or make things happen when controlling a device such as a model vehicle




L5. to make controllable systems or models, devising and refining (i) sequences of instructions taking into account users, purposes and needs

L6. to consider the implications of familiar designs and products for the environment and different communities

Explanatory text

Devising and refining: Including the use of conditional statements, procedures or subroutines


Scientific and technological understanding - science



Explanatory text



M9. to investigate how light and sound travel and how shadows and sounds are made

M10. to investigate the effects of different forces (i) and how they can use these to move mechanical parts (i) or objects in specific ways  

M11. to identify, group and select materials (i) using properties (i) and behaviours (i) that can be tested, and identify and group living things using observable features and other characteristics (i)

M12. to investigate what happens when materials are mixed, and whether and how they can be separated (i) again

M13. to apply scientific knowledge and understanding (i) to grow healthy plants and explain how humans and other animals stay fit and healthy

M14. to investigate the physical characteristics (i) of the local environment and the living things (i) in it, comparing them with those from another locality


Explanatory text

Different forces: Different forces include magnetic forces, gravitational attraction, friction and air resistance and measuring them

Mechanical parts: This includes those in the human body
Materials: This includes rocks and soils, and grouping into solids, liquids and gases
Properties: This includes electrical, thermal and magnetic
Behaviours: This includes reversible and non-reversible changes
Characteristics: Including habitat (for example water, land and air) and diet (for example other animals, plants or a combination)
Separated: This includes separating solids from mixtures by sieving and filtering and by magnetic separation
Scientific knowledge and understanding: This includes the structure and function of the parts of a plant and the relationship between them
Physical characteristics: Including the appearance, texture and permeability of rocks and soils
Living things: This includes food chains



Explanatory text



Science and technological understanding - science - energy, movement and forces



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L7. to investigate and explain the effect of changes in electrical circuits

L8. to investigate the properties and behaviour of light and sound in order to describe and explain familiar effects (i)

L9. to investigate combinations of forces (i)

Explanatory text

Familiar effects: This includes how we see things, how shadows are formed and how to change the pitch and loudness of sounds produced by musical instruments
Combinations of forces: This includes opposite forces, more than one force acting on an object and representing them diagrammatically

Science and technological understanding - science - material behaviour



Explanatory text






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L10. to explore, explain and use reversible and non-reversible changes (i) that occur in the world around them and how changes can be used to create new and useful materials

Explanatory text

Reversible and non-reversible changes: For example the reversible changes that occur when separating soluble solids from liquids and the non-reversible changes of the breakdown of food by micro-organisms



Scientific and technological understanding - science - life and living things



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L11. to apply knowledge and understanding to describe and explain the structure and function of key human body systems including reproduction (i)

L12. to investigate the structure, function, life cycle and growth of flowering plants and how these grow and are used around the world

L13. to investigate, identify and explain the benefits of micro-organisms and the harm they can cause (i)

Explanatory text

Key human body systems including reproduction: This should also include digestion (teeth and food), circulation (heart and pulse rate), skeleton (muscles and movement) and growth. This should be related to caring for the human body

Benefits of micro-organisms and the harm they can cause: The benefits include breaking down waste and use in the making of bread, the harm includes causing disease and making food go mouldy

Scientific and technological understanding - science - the environment, Earth and solar system




L14. to investigate and explain how plants and animals are interdependent (i) and are diverse and adapted to their environment as a result of evolution

L15. to investigate and explain how scientific and technological developments affect the physical and living worlds (i)

L16. to explore and explain practical ways in which science can contribute to a more sustainable future

L17. to explore and explain how time measurement (i) relates to day and night and the Earth's place in the solar system

Explanatory text

How plants and animals are interdependent: This includes green plants as producers and animals as consumers; the ways in which plants depend on animals including pollination, seed dispersal and nutrients; fertilisers as plant nutrients and growing plants
Physical and living worlds: Scientific and technological developments that affect the physical and living worlds include the consideration of medicine and health, farming and agriculture, travel, communication and entertainment, pollution and global climate change
Time measurement: Including days, months and years

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