Curriculum Vital

The new National Curriculum in England 
Key Stages 1-2 science

The new National Curriculum in England features a number of important changes in science. There will be a greater focus on experimentation with the addition of 'Working scientifically', which aims to develop pupils' understanding of the process of scientific enquiry. In KS2, the theory of evolution by natural selection will be taught for the first time. Pupils will also be introduced to the systems of the human body, including the circulatory and the digestive systems. Physics has been removed entirely from KS1 and instead is featured heavily in KS2, with the addition of subjects such as the properties of sound and movement of objects in the Solar System.

Below are outlined all the major changes to the primary school science programme of study.

Darwin's Rhea

Evolution to be taught in KS2

For the first time, primary school students will be taught about the origins of life in the Year 6 ‘Evolution and Inheritance’ unit. Pupils learn how fossils record the changes that living things undergo over millions of years. They discover that living things produce offspring which share characteristics with their parents. Pupils learn that through the process of evolution, many animals and plants have developed characteristics to help them survive in their habitats.

Greater range of investigative activities

Investigative activities are included in the non-statutory requirements of most modules within the primary curriculum. Examples of this include the use of magnifying glasses to look at plants in Year 1 and exploring different kinds of rocks and soils in the local environment in Year 3.

The new programme includes the introduction of 'Working scientifically'. This is integrated with all topics in all Key Stages. ‘Working scientifically’ promotes a range of skills such as asking scientific questions, the ability to compare and contrast and using simple measuring equipment.

No Physics until KS2

'Physical processes' has been removed from KS1 and split into six separate topics which are taught rigorously with additions in material including behaviour of light, properties of sound and movement of the planets.

In Year 3, pupils learn in more depth about light, reflection and shadows. In 'Forces and Magnets', the difference between contact and non-contact forces is taught. In Year 4, pupils are taught that sound is caused by vibrations, and how the properties of sound can change. In ‘Electricity’ pupils experiment with simple circuits.

In Year 5, pupils become more familiar with forces and are expected to learn about mechanisms (gears, pulleys and levers), a completely new subject. In Year 6, students learn how light travels in straight lines. Understanding of electrical circuits is developed and pupils learn to draw technical circuit diagrams. The movement of all major bodies in the solar system is studied for the first time.

'Life processes and living things' has been expanded

There are now three separate units introducing students to biology: 'animals including humans', 'plants' and 'living things and their habitats'. There is a greater emphasis on recognition of plant and animal species.

Year 1 pupils are expected to identify and name a variety of different plants, as well as describe the basic structure of a flowering plant. They should learn to classify some animals by class, such as amphibian, bird or reptile. Year 2 pupils are expected to understand growth in plants and animals and be able to identify a range of living things in their habitats.

Year 4 students are taught about how habitats can change, including learning about how humans can change habitats. Simple food chains are introduced. In Year 5, pupils learn about the different life cycles (including reproduction) of animals and other types of animal. Year 6 pupils should be able to classify living things by considering their characteristics.

Introducing the seasons in KS1Sublimation

In 'Seasonal changes', Year 1 pupils are expected to observe how weather and day length varies depending upon the time of year, as well as learning about differences between the four seasons.

‘Materials and their properties’ has been split up

This subject is now composed of ‘Everyday materials’ and ‘Uses of everyday materials’.

In KS1, pupils learn to identify and describe some basic materials and their uses. In KS2 pupils learn about changes in materials, including phase changes. For the first time, sublimation will be taught along with the basic phase changes.

Basic physiology in KS2

In KS2, expect to see more focus on learning the systems of the human body. Learning about staying healthy replaces material which focused on how to treat other humans and caring for animals. 

Year 3 pupils learn about the muscular-skeletal system and how it allows for movement. Students learn about nutrition in animals, including humans. Year 4 pupils are introduced to the main body parts associated with the digestive system such as the mouth, tongue, teeth, oesophagus, stomach and small and large intestine. Year 5 pupils learn about human ageing, including the changes that occur during puberty. Year 6 pupils are taught to identify and name the main parts of the human circulatory system, and describe the functions of the heart, blood vessels and blood. The effects of different lifestyles on the human body is studied. Transport of nutrients and water is introduced.

Related lesson plans

Physics lesson plans

Year 3 Light: How we see things: Pupils learn about light sources, how light is reflected and some of the dangers of light.

Year 3 Light: Changing shadows: Using an overhead projecter, pupils leran about how shadows are formed and how their shadows change throughout the day

Year 3 Forces and Magnets: Contact and non-contact forces: Pupils carry out an experiment using a Newton metre and learn the difference between contact and non-contact forces.

Year 3 Forces and Magnets: Magnets: Pupils study magnets and make their own discoveries about the magnetic force.

Year 4 Sound: How we hear things: Through a fun design challenge and study of instruments, pupils learn about how sound is made and how volume can be affected.

Year 4 Sound: Properties of sound: With various noisy activities, pupils investigate how pitch and volume can be changed.

Year 4 Electricity: Using Electricity: Pupils construct simple circuits and learn about how electricty flows, conductors and insulators and the dangers of electricity.

Year 4 Electricity: Different Circuits: By making changes to simple circuits, pupils learn about how circuits can be broken or complete and how components may behave differently.

Year 5 Earth and Space: The Solar System: Pupils play the roles of astronomical bodies as they learn about the history of models of the solar system and how the solar system is strutured.

Year 5 Earth and Space: Day and night: With simple demonstratons, pupils learn about how the rotation of the Earth causes day and night and the apparent movement of the Sun from East to West.

Year 5 Forces: Falling: By reading a short fairy tale and watching footage of a moon landing, pupils are introduced to the gravitational force and its effects.

Year 5 Forces: Resistance: With lots of competitive, hands-on activities, pupils learn about air resistance, water resistance and friction.

Year 5 Forces: Building machines: Pupils learn about gears, pulleys and levers and design their own Wallace and Gromit inspired machines.

Year 6 Light: How light travels: Pupils make periscopes and engage in secret missions while learning about how light travels in straight lines.

Year 6 Electricity: Testing circuits: The entire class engages in a lively role play activity to explain the effects of changing circuits.

Year 6 Electricity: Circuit Symbols: Pupils hunt for symbols hidden around the school and learn to use circuit symbols to represent simple circuits.

Materials lesson plans

Year 1 Everyday materials: The stuff that things are made of: A lesson in which pupils are introduced to different materials and make their own models.

Year 1 Everyday materials: What are materials used for?: Pupils carry out a long experiment to find the best material to make a tent with.

Year 2 Uses of everyday materials: Using materials: Pupils learn about how the properties of materials make them suitable or unsuitable for various purposes.

Year 3 Rocks: Rocks and Fossils: Pupils investigate rocks, record their findings and discover how fossils are formed.

Year 3 Rocks: Different Soils: While studying soil from the local environment, pupils learn about the composition and uses of soil and different types of soil.

Year 4 States of matter: Solids, liquids and gases: Pupils learn about the properties of solids, liquids gases and are introduced to the transitions between them.

Year 4 States of matter: Exploring changes of state: Through experiments, pupils determine the melting point of chocolate and the relationship between temperature and rate of evaporation.

Year 5 Properties and changes of materials: Grouping materials: A lesson based around a set of experiments in which pupils test the properties of materials and compare them based on the evidence they have collected.

Year 5 Properties and changes of materials: Reversible and Irreversible Changes: A cooking-themed lesson in which pupils learn about dissolving, mixing and irreversible changes.

Biology lesson plans

Year 1 Plants: Describing Plants: An introduction to different plants in the local environment and the main parts of their structure.

Year 1 Plants: Deciduous and Evergreen Trees: Pupils collect and compare leaves, putting plants in different groups, including deciduous and evergreen.

Year 1 Animals, including humans: Pets and other animals: Through watching cartoons, pupils learn the common names of some animals and learn how to compare and group animals.

Year 1 Animals, including humans: What do animals eat?: By considering how they feed their pets, pupils learn about how animals can be herbivores, carnivores or omnivores.

Year 1 Animals, including humans: Basic body parts: With songs and games, pupils are introduced to the basic parts of the human body.

Year 1 Animals, including humans: Five senses: A practical lesson in which pupils learn about the main five senses and the body parts associated with them.

Year 1 Seasonal Changes: The four seasons: A lesson on this new standalone topic. Pupils learn the differences in weather and day length through the seasons.

Year 2 Living things and their habitats: Dead or alive?: Pupils learn what it means to be 'alive' and the differences between living things, dead things and things that were never alive.

Year 2 Living things and their habitats: Habitats and micro-habitats: A lesson about habitats, micro-habitats and how animals and plants are well-adapted for them.

Year 2 Living things and their habitats: Connected lives: Pupils learn about how living things depend upon each other by observing nature and singing an old folk song.

Year 2 Plants: How do plants grow?: An observation-based lesson in which pupils learn about the growth of a plant, beginning from a seed.

Year 2 Plants: What do plants need to grow?: By making cress heads (among other activities), pupils learn about what plants need to stay healthy.

Year 2 Animals, including humans: Birth and growth: Pupils study how humans and other animals develop from birth, including looking at the stages of life for insects and amphibians.

Year 2 Animals, including humans: Human needs: Pupils pack for a trip to space in order to determine what is essential for survival and what is important for survival.

Year 3 Plants: Keeping plants healthy: A lesson about the structure of plants and what plants need to survive.

Year 3 Plants: Plant reproduction: Pupils learn how flowers are involved with reproduction of plants with discussions and a role play.

Year 3 Animals, including humans: Nutrition: A lesson about what animals need to eat. Pupils learn about the different parts of a balanced diet and scrutinise the healthiness of their favourite meal.

Year 3 Animals, including humans: Bones and muscles: Pupils learn about the importance of the musculoskeletal system, and classify animals by looking at their skeletons.

Year 4 Living things and their habitats: Classification: Pupils learn how to use and create their own classification keys to group animals in the local environment.

Year 4 Living things and their habitats: Changing environments: A discussion based lesson about the positive and negative impact humans can have on local wildlife.

Year 4 Animals, including humans: The Digestive System: A lesson full of terminology, storytelling and poo which takes a look at the human digestive system.

Year 4 Animals, including humans: Me and my teeth: Starting with their own mouths, pupils learn about different types of teeth and how to keep them healthy.

Year 4 Animals, including humans: Food Chains: Pupils create and act out their own food chains including producers, prey and predators.

Year 5 Living things and their habitats: Life cycles: Pupils learn about the life cycles of animals, including the metamorphosis of insects.

Year 5 Living things and their habitats: Reproduction: A lesson about sexual and asexual reproduction in plants and animals, including humans.

Year 5 Animals, including humans: Growing and Changing: A look at the changes which humans experience as they grow up, including puberty.

Year 6 Living things and their habitats: Animals, plants and more: Pupils use what they know about classification to group unfamiliar organisms, including bacteria.

Year 6 Evolution and Inheritance: Inheritance: Pupils learn about mixing characteristics and how some characteristics are acquired rather than inherited.

Year 6 Evolution and Inheritance: Natural Selection: A lesson about how adaptation and how evolution occurs via natural selection.

Year 6 Evolution and Inheritance: Adapting to surroundings: Questions to make pupils think about how some animals are well adapted.

Year 6 Evolution and Inheritance: The stages of life: Questions to make pupils think about how creatures change over long periods of time.

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