Ofsted focuses on primary science teaching

The chief inspector of schools in England, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has outlined his concerns over science teaching in primary schools. He is urging all inspectors to look at science during routine school inspections. 

Primary school children in a nature study class

Credit: Anthea Sieveking , Wellcome Images

Primary school children in a nature study class

In January and February 2016, Ofsted inspectors focused on science provision in 234 routine inspections of primary schools in England. 

They found that many primary schools fail to prioritise science.

  • In two-thirds of the schools inspected, pupils were taught science for less than two hours a week. 
  • In one school children couldn't remember the last time they had done any science. 

Inspectors also found that the quality of science teaching was variable and a link between teachers’ subject knowledge and pupil performance. 

In light of these findings, Sir Michael Wilshaw is reminding inspectors to look closely at science during their inspections. 

Wellcome has been monitoring how often science is mentioned in Ofsted reports for the past few years.

  • In 2014, only a quarter of primary school reports mentioned science at all. 
  • In the first quarter of 2016, 60% of reports mention science. 

We are pleased that Ofsted will continue to look at science in future primary school inspections and hope all reports will comment on science provision.

We will continue to monitor inspection reports and put pressure on Ofsted to hold schools to account for their science provision.