Purpose of study

A high-quality science education provides the foundations for understanding the world through the specific disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics. Science has changed our lives and is vital to the world’s future prosperity.  All pupils should be taught essential aspects of the knowledge, methods, processes and uses of science. Through building up a body of key foundational knowledge and concepts, pupils are encouraged to recognise the power of rational explanation and develop a sense of excitement and curiosity about natural phenomena. They are encouraged to understand how science can be used to explain what is occurring, predict how things will behave, and analyse causes.


The curriculum for science ensures that all pupils:

·         Develop scientific knowledge and conceptual understanding through the specific disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics

·         Develop understanding of the nature, processes and methods of science through different types of science enquiries that help them to answer scientific questions about the world around them

·         Are equipped with the scientific knowledge required to understand the uses and implications of science, today and for the future.


Scientific knowledge and conceptual understanding


The programmes of study describe a sequence of knowledge and concepts. While it is important that pupils make progress, it is also vitally important that they develop secure understanding of each key block of knowledge and concepts in order to progress to the next stage. Insecure, superficial understanding will not allow genuine progression: pupils may struggle at key points of transition (such as between primary and secondary school), build up serious misconceptions, and/or have significant difficulties in understanding higher-order content.


Pupils learn to describe associated processes and key characteristics in common language, but they should also learn and use technical terminology accurately and precisely and build up an extended specialist vocabulary. Pupils apply their mathematical knowledge to their understanding of science, including collecting, presenting and analysing data. The social and economic implications of science are important but, generally, pupils are taught most appropriately within the wider school curriculum: teachers will use different contexts to maximise pupils’ engagement with and motivation to study science.


Spoken language


The curriculum for science reflects the importance of spoken language in pupils’ development across the whole curriculum – cognitively, socially and linguistically. The quality and variety of language that pupils hear and speak are key factors in developing their scientific vocabulary and articulating scientific concepts clearly and precisely. Pupils are assisted in making their thinking clear to themselves and others, and teachers ensure that pupils build secure foundations by using discussion to probe and remedy their misconceptions.


Attainment targets


By the end of key stage 3 and 4, pupils are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes specified in the relevant programme of study.

Science – Key Stage 3




The principal focus of science teaching in key stage 3 is to develop a deeper understanding of a range of scientific ideas in the subject disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics. Pupils begin to see the connections between these subject areas and become aware of some of the big ideas underpinning scientific knowledge and understanding. Examples of these big ideas are the links between structure and function in living organisms, the particulate model as the key to understanding the properties and interactions of matter in all its forms, and the resources and means of transfer of energy as key determinants of all of these interactions. Pupils are encouraged to relate scientific explanations to phenomena in the world around them and start to use modelling and abstract ideas to develop and evaluate explanations.


Pupils are taught to understand that science is about working objectively, modifying explanations to take account of new evidence and ideas and subjecting results to peer review. Pupils decide on the appropriate type of scientific enquiry to undertake to answer their own questions and develop a deeper understanding of factors to be taken into account when collecting, recording and processing data. They evaluate their results and identify further questions arising from them.


‘Working scientifically’ is described separately at the beginning of the programme of study, but is taught through and clearly related to substantive science content. Teachers choose examples that serve a variety of purposes, from showing how scientific ideas have developed historically to reflecting modern developments in science.


Pupils develop their use of scientific vocabulary, including the use of scientific nomenclature and units and mathematical representations.



Working scientifically


Through the content across Biology, Chemistry and Physics, pupils are taught to:


Scientific attitudes


·         Pay attention to objectivity and concern for accuracy, precision, repeatability and reproducibility

·         Understand that scientific methods and theories develop as earlier explanations are modified to take account of new evidence and ideas, together with the importance of publishing results and peer review

·         Evaluate risks


Experimental skills and investigations


·         Ask questions and develop a line of enquiry based on observations of the real world, alongside prior knowledge and experience

·         Make predictions using scientific knowledge and understanding

·         Select, plan and carry out the most appropriate types of scientific enquiries to test predictions, including identifying independent, dependent and control variables, where appropriate

·         Use appropriate techniques, apparatus, and materials during fieldwork and laboratory work, paying attention to health and safety

·         Make and record observations and measurements using a range of methods for different investigations; and evaluate the reliability of methods and suggest possible improvements

·         Apply sampling techniques. Analysis and evaluation

·         Apply mathematical concepts and calculate results

·         Present observations and data using appropriate methods, including tables and graphs

·         Interpret observations and data, including identifying patterns and using observations, measurements and data to draw conclusions

·         Present reasoned explanations, including explaining data in relation to predictions and hypotheses

·         Evaluate data, showing awareness of potential sources of random and systematic error

·         Identify further questions arising from their results.




·         Understand and use SI units and IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) chemical nomenclature

·         Use and derive simple equations and carry out appropriate calculations

·         Undertake basic data analysis including simple statistical techniques.



KS3 Biology – Subject content


Pupils are taught about:


Structure and function of living organisms


Cells and organisation


·         Cells as the fundamental unit of living organisms, including how to observe, interpret and record cell structure using a light microscope

·         The functions of the cell wall, cell membrane, cytoplasm, nucleus, vacuole, mitochondria and chloroplasts

·         The similarities and differences between plant and animal cells

·         The role of diffusion in the movement of materials in and between cells

·         The structural adaptations of some unicellular organisms

·         The hierarchical organisation of multicellular organisms: from cells to tissues to organs to systems to organisms.


The skeletal and muscular systems


·         The structure and functions of the human skeleton, to include support, protection, movement and making blood cells

·         Biomechanics – the interaction between skeleton and muscles, including the measurement of force exerted by different muscles

·         The function of muscles and examples of antagonistic muscles. Nutrition and digestion

·         Content of a healthy human diet: carbohydrates, lipids (fats and oils), proteins, vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and water, and why each is needed

·         Calculations of energy requirements in a healthy daily diet

·         The consequences of imbalances in the diet, including obesity, starvation and

deficiency diseases

·         The tissues and organs of the human digestive system, including adaptations to function and how the digestive system digests food (enzymes simply as biological catalysts)

·         The importance of bacteria in the human digestive system

·         Plants making carbohydrates in their leaves by photosynthesis and gaining mineral

nutrients and water from the soil via their roots.


Gas exchange systems


·         The structure and functions of the gas exchange system in humans, including adaptations to function

·         The mechanism of breathing to move air in and out of the lungs, using a pressure model to explain the movement of gases, including simple measurements of lung volume

·         The impact of exercise, asthma and smoking on the human gas exchange system

·         The role of leaf stomata in gas exchange in plants.




·         Reproduction in humans (as e.g. of a mammal), including the structure and function of the male and female reproductive systems, menstrual cycle (without details of hormones), gametes, fertilisation, gestation and birth, to include the effect of maternal lifestyle on the foetus through the placenta

·         Reproduction in plants, including flower structure, wind and insect pollination, fertilisation, seed and fruit formation and dispersal, including quantitative investigation of some dispersal mechanisms.




·         The effects of recreational drugs (including substance misuse) on behaviour, health and life processes.


Material cycles and energy




·         The reactants in, and products of, photosynthesis, and a word summary for photosynthesis

·         The dependence of almost all life on Earth on the ability of photosynthetic organisms, such as plants and algae, to use sunlight in photosynthesis to build organic molecules that are an essential energy store and to maintain levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

·         The adaptations of leaves for photosynthesis.


Cellular respiration


·         Aerobic and anaerobic respiration in living organisms, including the breakdown of organic molecules to enable all the other chemical processes necessary for life

·         A word summary for aerobic respiration

·         The process of anaerobic respiration in humans and micro-organisms, including

fermentation, and a word summary for anaerobic respiration

·         The differences between aerobic and anaerobic respiration in terms of the reactants, the products formed and the implications for the organism.


Interactions and interdependencies


Relationships in an ecosystem


·         The interdependence of organisms in an ecosystem, including food webs and insect pollinated crops

·         The importance of plant reproduction through insect pollination in human food security

·         How organisms affect, and are affected by, their environment, including the accumulation of toxins


Genetics and evolution

Inheritance, chromosomes, DNA and genes


·         Heredity as the process by which genetic information is transmitted from one generation to the next

·         A simple model of chromosomes, genes and DNA in heredity, including the part played by Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Franklin in the development of the DNA model

·         Differences between species

·         The variation between individuals within a species being continuous or discontinuous,

to include measurement and graphical representation of variation

·         The variation between species and between individuals of the same species means some organisms compete more successfully, which can drive natural selection

·         Changes in the environment may leave individuals within a species, and some entire species, less well adapted to compete successfully and reproduce, which in turn may lead to extinction

·         The importance of maintaining biodiversity and use of gene banks to preserve hereditary material.

Key Stage 3 Chemistry - Subject content


Pupils are taught about:


The particulate nature of matter


·         The properties of the different states of matter (solid, liquid and gas) in terms of the particle model, including gas pressure

·         Changes of state in terms of the particle model.


Atoms, elements and compounds


·         Simple (Dalton) atomic model

·         Differences between atoms, elements and compounds

·         Chemical symbols and formulae for elements and compounds