Attribution - Maria Rossini, Head of Education, British Science Association

Guidance from the Education Endowment Foundation  

The socio-economic situation a child is born into should not dictate their chances of reaching their full academic potential. However, in the UK when last reported, the attainment gaps at primary and GCSE are at their highest levels since 2012. The stark difference in attainment between young people from more and less privileged backgrounds has a knock-on effect on their future job opportunities, health and wellbeing, and is laying the foundations of an increasingly unequal and polarised society.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is a charity dedicated to addressing this issue. They support ‘schools, colleges, and early years settings to improve teaching and learning through better use of evidence’.

In November 2023, the EEF published a new guidance report - ‘Improving Primary Science’ – which offers educators six practical recommendations, underpinned by high quality evidence, on ‘how to make meaningful improvements to primary science teaching’. These recommendations range from increasing scientific vocabulary, to relating classroom work to the real world – all areas that the British Science Association are highly supportive of, and we welcome the findings and recommendations in the report.

Using CREST to boost primary science

CREST Awards, the British Science Association’s (BSA) flagship education programme, offers science projects for primary school pupils in the shape of Star (ages 5-7) and SuperStar (ages 7-11) Challenge collections.

Running these activities as part of the curriculum will align primary science teaching to the recommendations in the EEF’s guidance report, and help to give all pupils from all backgrounds an opportunity to engage meaningfully with science.

We feel that CREST can help teachers easily apply all six recommendations from the EEF report, which we’ve expanded on below, in numerous ways:

1. Develop pupils' scientific vocabulary

Supporting pupils to develop scientific vocabulary can help them to actively participate in science learning and effectively communicate their understanding. Pupils may be able to better engage with new concepts because they are familiar with the words used to describe them.

Each primary CREST activity places an emphasis on children expanding their scientific vocabulary. Activities include a ‘Keywords’ section, with a list of scientific words related to the topic, some that children may already be familiar with, and some they may be hearing for the first time. For example, in the SuperStar activity ‘Drifting Dandelions’, the keywords are: seed, germination, pollination, plants and dispersion.

2. Encourage pupils to explain their thinking, whether verbal or in written form

Strategies that encourage pupils to make their thinking explicit can create opportunities for pupils to recall, organise, and express their thoughts and ideas, refine their understanding, and think scientifically.

All CREST Star and SuperStar activities have been developed so that children work collaboratively, share their thoughts and ideas either verbally or in writing. Most CREST activities have a story built in that helps children’s thinking early on in the activity, often using a ‘concept cartoon’ approach. Children relaying what they’ve learned to their teacher and peers is an intrinsic part of CREST activities. There is no right or wrong way to do it – it can be an opportunity for children to be creative – and it encourages them to think about what they’ve done and why. Hopefully they will use the new scientific terminology they’ve learned.

3. Guide pupils to work scientifically 

Working scientifically integrates science content knowledge with an understanding of the nature, processes, and methods of science.

Working scientifically is about the children understanding and applying what they’re learning through completing an activity – what are they trying to find out through their experiment? – rather than simply going the motions. All CREST activities put the children in the role of ‘scientist’ or ‘engineer’ and guide them through the process of working scientifically.

Working scientifically in this way gives the children a degree of independence; they can think about designing experiments and presenting the results. Star and SuperStar CREST activities are purposefully open-ended. They encourage children to think like scientists to answer a question about the world.

4. Relate new learning to relevant, real-world contexts

Connecting science teaching to meaningful and tangible scenarios or examples that reflect the nature of the real world can enhance science attainment and attitudes towards science.

Star and SuperStar CREST challenges are designed to be relevant to the lives and interests of young children. Each Star and SuperStar activity (and Discovery, Bronze, Silver and Gold for secondary students) discusses a real-world scenario, demonstrating the link between science lessons in the classroom and the children’s lives.

For example, ‘Speedy scooters’ in the Star collection teaches children about surfaces and friction by asking why you might go faster on a scooter on a smooth path rather than on grass.

Kite calamity’ in the SuperStar collection has children exploring forces and aerodynamics by building and flying a kite.

5. Use assessment to support learning and responsive teaching

Assessment in science is useful for both pupils and teachers. For pupils, it can support them to take ownership of their learning, respond to feedback, and aim towards learning goals.

Successfully completing a CREST activity involves trial and improvement. They’re open-ended experiments which allow for teacher assessment and feedback during the process.

Once a child has completed eight Star or SuperStar activities, they can be submitted for their Award certificate, which can give children a sense of achievement and pride in their science abilities. Establishing a child’s positive attitude towards science is vital as it can provide a foundation for further engagement as they move through their education career.

6. Strengthen science teaching through effective professional development, as part of an implementation process

“Providing opportunities for science-specific professional development can harness this potential, which—with the right conditions— can translate into positive science outcomes for pupils.”

As well as CREST Awards, the BSA runs ‘Engage’, a community of teachers in schools in challenging circumstances who share ideas, access inspiring resources and apply for grants to help bring science to life.

Engage includes the Engage Teacher Conference, where you can hear from fellow teachers, education experts and businesses about the latest sector news, best practice and funding opportunities. You can also apply for Engage Grants, which open twice a year. The money can be used to pay CREST fees, and also to fund staff CPD.

Other blogs you might be interested in:

Building girls confidence in STEM with CREST Awards

Celebrating nature with CREST at British Science Week

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