A call for ‘practical’ science to remain in the primary curriculum

Comment by DAN SULLIVAN, founder of Empiribox

The modern online lip-sync safety battle: How to keep our children safe on

Comment by CLAIRE DANIELS, Online Safety Ambassador at Smoothwall

In January 2018, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, announced that science is being “squeezed out” of the primary school curriculum to allow schools to focus on mathematics and English - the aim being that schools improve results in Key Stage 2 (KS2) Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) and climb the league tables published annually by the Department for Education. Spielman championed traditional book-based learning combined with teacher-led demonstrations, rather than interactive “enquiry-based learning”. To the contrary, having worked in primary and secondary schools for over

17 years, I believe we should be engaging children in science directly and giving them the tools to solve practical problems within their lessons. By making science lessons compulsory for KS2, children will be given the opportunity to embed key skills, develop into confident learners and, if they choose, move on to become the next generation science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals - important given the current skills shortage in STEM sector announced recently by The Home Office. Such transferable skills, including conducting investigations, interpreting

data and making informed decisions, can be applied to a wide variety of STEM based careers, while traditional textbook-based learning encourages recall of scientific theories and facts, relevant to a small percentage of science-based jobs. Through an enquiry-based approach to science, children can use their natural curiosity to embed the learning that matters to them, and become agile and flexible problem solvers rather than absorbers of science questions, ideas and processes. At present, 97% of primary teachers are not science graduates and are

reliant on the limited training they receive as part of their Post Graduate Certification in Education (PGCE) training programme. In the one-year course, newly qualified teachers (NQTs) have at most just one month of compulsory science training as it is only one element of the many pedagogical practices the course must cover. The result is that many primary school teachers lack the confidence to deliver an engaging lesson. Recent plans to reduce science within the national curriculum, coupled

with a limited science budget in schools, also mean that teachers are not able to find the time to plan or buy the resources they need to provide interesting, practical science lessons. The result would be extremely unfortunate for the children, who will be forced to sit through uninspiring, demonstration-led classes which fail to capture the attention of our future scientists. I strongly believe that the government should be investing in staff CPD and

promoting practical, hand-on experiments. Without sufficient background knowledge on the subject and training on how to successfully run classroom- based experiments, the benefits of practical primary science curriculum become lost. Teachers are often the first entry point into science for many children, and being confident in the delivery of inspiring practical science will help children gain the necessary transferable skills to jump-start their careers in STEM. My view is also supported by Sir John Holman in his 2017 Good Practical

Science Report, produced by the Gatsby Foundation, in which he states that the excitement of scientific investigation brings to life fundamental scientific concepts and nurtures a lifelong interest in science. An enquiry-based primary science curriculum, supported through a strong

CPD training programme for teachers, will only encourage children’s natural curiosity into practical investigation and problem solving, inspiring the future generation of scientists.

June 2018

As the younger generation of today become increasingly digitally savvy, the pressures to portray a certain image online grows. Many children see the likes and comments they receive via their online posts as a form of validation and measurement of their self-worth. In a society of Zoellas comes with a desire in kids to mimic their favourite social media influencers, whether that be the stories, images or videos they are sharing online. More than three-quarters of youngsters say they’d consider a career

in online videos, so it is no wonder has over 100 million users. The app, designed for ages 13 and above (although popular with those much younger), describes itself as a “lip-sync and video sharing social network for people creating, sharing and discovering short videos”. Labelling followers as ‘fans’, the video- sharing outlet is very much aware of its main user base and what language style gauges their attention. Unfortunately, children are not the only users of, nor are they aware of the dangers the platform poses.

The potential dangers Creating an account can take 3-5 minutes and is automatically available as a public profile. The lack of privacy means there are masses of content available at any time. This raises alarm bells, particularly when you consider minors are posting videos of them dancing suggestively – a current trend on the platform. During videos, children have been encouraged to complete certain tasks in return for gifts. One case reported in 2016 involved a child being asked to send naked pictures of themselves to an anonymous user via the app. The worry is with such cases, children won’t reach out for help

through embarrassment or fear of their parents seeing their online behaviour. As adults, whether parents, teachers or internet safety specialists, it’s vital we educate the younger generation of the risks surrounding free and public apps.

What can be done to help protect children from the risks? Firstly, profiles should be private so that content can only be viewed once accepted, whilst only accepting friends to prevent strangers from viewing their content. However, even though the account is on private, profile photos, bios and location details can still be found. Children must consider if they would be happy for anyone to see their posts, as functions such as screenshots can result in their information going further than they’d like. Secondly, closely monitor behaviours and moods and have regular

conversations about the current trends, dangers and safety measures. This will help keep children aware of today’s internet dangers and ways to stay safe. Lastly, educate children on how to report unwanted activity; it’s vital adults make them feel comfortable in doing so.

A united front Among the many benefits of the internet, children need to be aware of the information and content they make available. Social media companies, schools and parents should make a joint effort in providing advice and preventing the dangers the internet presents children, to ensure they are kept safe online. It’s not about taking the fun away from children. They should keep singing, keep dancing and keep having fun, but need to be doing this as safely and securely as possible. 21

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