Creating a shared vision for science – why and how?
Carla Wallington looks back on her first year as a Science Lead and reflects on the steps she took to create a shared vision for science across the school.
Thinking back to my first year as Science Lead, I remember feeling pretty overwhelmed! I knew there was plenty to be getting on with, but not only did I not know where to start, I had little idea of what I had to even consider or what should take priority.
Thankfully, I was reapplying our school for the Primary Science Quality Mark and was sent on science lead training to help focus and organise the priorities I needed for the role. This has, hands down, made me the confident science leader I am today but depending on the budget and status of science within your school, this is not a possibility for everyone. One of the most valuable things I took from the training was that it was important to get the whole school on board with a vision for science.
At the beginning of the year, I wanted to find out what Science meant to everyone in the school: governors, senior leaders, headteacher, teaching staff, parents, carers and most importantly, the children. So, I asked them! Then I collected the words and phrases that came up in their responses to get an idea of science and its status within the school. This was really important as the vision and ideals you want to promote for your school need to be shared and created together – in doing this you’ve won half the battle!
Use that as the basis for your new path or goal for science. You are in the driving seat, which may seem daunting, but your ideas and direction have come from the knowledge and insight of the whole school for you to build the shared principles. Once you’ve discovered the attitudes, try to address and break down some of the challenges or issues that came up.
Talk to the teachers and find out if they have any barriers to science, do they lack confidence; not enjoy Science; don’t know the curriculum they need to cover; have a tricky class that worries them when considering practical activities; do they feel they do not have the resources they need to teach the lessons well?
From here you can look into specific CPD opportunities for your staff or use your growing knowledge of the curriculum to plan with them 1:1. You could model teaching lessons for them – I became more confident the more I did this with my staff. It was daunting at first, but it gets easier with experience.
Headteacher and SLT
It's vital to know if they see Science as a priority and if your journey for Science matches with theirs in relation to the school improvement plan. From this knowledge, arrange meetings with the governors and ask their opinions on what they believe could help – they can have some influence in turning visions into reality.
Ask your headteacher and SLT how Science can contribute to their School improvement plan. They are more likely to support you if your science plan benefits the SIP by the end of the year. For example, if writing is a focus for the school, discuss how extended writing opportunities could be woven in as an objective within science to help contribute to the overall aim.
Politely ask for some release time to give science the focus it needs and find out what science networks there are in your local area. Discussing science with other science leaders opens doors and provides priceless advice.
Parents and carers
Do any of the parents or carers have careers that utilise key scientific skills that could be shared in school? Parent interaction varies from school to school, but those who are enthusiastic provide a free and inspirational resource that has a greater impact on the children as they can see ‘real life’ examples of how science is beneficial.
Do they like science, do they find it inspiring, have they thought about science careers, how do they associate with science? If the children are interested in particular areas of science, use these as a catalyst within assemblies or science weeks to spark their interest and curiosity. Find out what companies and charities operate in the local area – some may provide free resources or workshops.
By approaching the school in this way, I instantly had a good sense of science and its status within the school. I had direction and priorities that I could address in those first few months and, by the start of the Spring term, I was able to start establishing and organising my time accordingly.
When taking on the science lead role the main thing is not to panic or worry! Everyone will have a different way that they promote science in their schools and it’s important that you trust yourself and the vision you have created.