Executive head teacher Malcolm Drakes explains how a science resource has changed the way that the subject is being taught across Broadford Primary School…
“Pupils at Broadford Primary School wake up excited at the prospect of the school day ahead. We work to give the 568 children in our care a rich educational experience with challenges and the highest quality teaching.
“We want our pupils to develop a lifelong love of learning. This informs every aspect of our work and has won us recognition from outside bodies. This year we were chosen as the Times Educational Supplement Primary School of the Year and we also won the coveted Overall School of the Year 2017.
“Here was a set of simple but effective resources that would let us deliver high end lessons with a WOW factor”
“It is hard to believe that back in March 2012 Broadford Primary School was in Special Measures. The Senior Leadership Team decided that a systematic and sustained focus on continuous professional development (CPD) was key to improvement.
“Within two years the school was transformed. An emphasis on planning, resourcing and training meant that teachers were more confident and competent when teaching core subjects.
Creating awe and wonder in science lessons
“A fine example of this was the teaching of science. Very few primary teachers have a background or qualification in science. This is a pity because science, taught well, provides some of the most exciting and dramatic moments in a classroom.
“We wanted to thrill them with exciting experiments and activities so that even the youngest of our pupils could experience the ‘awe and wonder’ of science. It was a tall order. It was essential to equip teachers with the necessary subject knowledge and to find the money for resources so that they could conduct high quality experiments.
“There was no local training we could tap into and we were disappointed to find that many of the science schemes we could buy in would require the teachers to interpret the ideas, resource the lessons and develop their own subject knowledge.
“This was going to place too heavy a workload on our teachers and would make it very difficult for us to differentiate teaching so that we could provide high end challenges for our more able learners.
“We came across Empiribox and were immediately impressed. Here was a set of simple but effective resources that would let us deliver high end lessons with a WOW factor.
“Each month all year groups study the same topic featuring hands-on investigative activity guaranteed to engage pupils of all abilities create a school-wide buzz of excitement and promote collaborative working and best practice amongst staff.
“Empiribox was developed by Dan Sullivan, an experienced secondary head of science. It gives us twelve themed monthly packages of inspiring lesson plans covering chemistry, biology and physics and assessment tools designed to measure, track and record pupil development. Everything is mapped to the KS 1 & 2 National Curriculum schemes of work. It is a great time saver for our staff and means we don’t have the stress and anxiety of planning the annual science curriculum.
“When you are delivering science sessions you need equipment but we don’t have the necessary space to store science resources when they are not in use so we were delighted to discover that Empiribox would deliver a trolley load of specialist equipment for every year group and collect it when the classes had finished that topic.
“This is such a brilliant idea: it keeps down our capital costs, makes best use of our limited storage space and provides all the kit needed for exciting hands-on activities designed to enthral pupils of all abilities.”
“The training provided by Empiribox is a key benefit for us. We estimated that the cost of training 25 teachers for three days would typically total upwards of £10,000 alone, so the Empiribox package represents an affordable solution for our school and the CPD they provide is free.
“The company provides a termly CPD training programme delivered by science graduates which boosts the confidence of our teachers and makes sure lessons go with a bang – sometimes literally!
“Empiribox was rolled out across the whole of KS1 and KS2 from February 2015. Each month all year groups study the same topic. They enjoy practical investigations suitable for the whole ability range and we even find staff talking about the topics and working together so there is a school-wide buzz of excitement.
“They have access to online resources to support planning and to enable them to answer questions from curious pupils and Georgina Barron, our AHT for Curriculum, regularly observes the lessons and then helps teachers to develop the quality of their teaching
“We have been working with Mead Primary School, one of our partner schools in the federation. The teachers can work together on training, planning and evaluation so pupils at both schools get access to the same high quality teaching. It also means that science teaching in the federation is not just the responsibility of one member of staff so we can ensure consistency even if staff leave or are absent long-term.
“Teachers are building their skills and subject knowledge. Tej Lander, a Year 4 teacher, told me, ‘Empiribox has really helped me to develop my scientific knowledge. My confidence with the vocabulary and how to address misconceptions has really improved with the training.’
“His pupils are very appreciative too. Paige said, ‘The teacher demonstrations have been amazing. When my Mr Lander blew the top of the paint can off it was incredible. It makes the learning so much fun.’
“When we asked the staff, 90% agreed strongly that their scientific knowledge had improved while 100% said they were more confident at planning and delivering experiments with their classes.
“Working with Empiribox has significantly helped to raise the quality and consistency of our science teaching. Pupils now typically make greater than expected progress across units of work and in a recent survey, the vast majority of pupils said the Empiribox lessons were exciting and enjoyable and made them keen to learn more in other areas of the curriculum.”
“Dan Sullivan, the founder of Empiribox, told us, ‘Science should be fun, not just for youngsters making their first foray into the world in which we live, but for teachers as well.’
“At Broadford Primary School we agree. Lessons regularly wow the pupils and give them hands-on opportunities to test and explore their ideas and we have found that this enthusiasm for learning bubbles over into all subject areas. Now we have pupils describing science as their favourite subject and that has never happened before!”