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Curriculum and Assessment

ASE provides support and advice for science subject leaders, teachers and schools. Find out more about joining ASE.

Resources below have been selected by ASE's expert Education Group to support implementing changes to the curriculum and assessment. Find out more




Northern Ireland


Science Education Policy (See our science education policy section)

The UK nations are seeing continuous curriculum change currently. This following report gives details of the comparison of education policy in the UK nations.

Science Skills

UK-wide STEM education provision has been recognised as the key to ensuring that the 'science skills gap' is closed.


England - Main Guidance

Changes to the national curriculum in the form of Programmes of Study, came into force in September 2014, with KS4 content continuing to be linked to provision of new GCSE specifications from September 2016. New AS and A levels have been taught from September 2015. 

Ofsted recently published Maintaining Curiosity, a three year study of what’s good and what can be improved in primary and secondary science.

Making judgements about science in your school:

  • Ofsted carry out subject specific inspections, and have in the past published science specific supplementary guidance. Currently this has been removed from the Ofsted website, though we have assurance that any science inspections will make reference to this guidance. There are sections on Overall Effectiveness, Achievement of pupils in science, Quality of Teaching in science, Quality of the Curriculum in science, Quality of leadership in and Management of Science.  These give good guidance to what the expectations are of science in a school, and might help you to raise the profile with your head teachers. We also recommend reading Ofsted Inspection Myths to dispel any ideas that could lead to unecessary workloads in schools.
  • (Secondary only) The National STEM centre has a self-evaluation tool to help guide you through the process of departmental self evaluation, this is also linked to the Ofsted criteria.

Exam Boards offering science courses: AQAPearson EdexcelOCR and WJEC

Overview of practical science assessment:

Progress 8 (in England):

The new accountability measure, Progress 8, will be introduced to all schools replacing the 5 A*-C measure. The new measure is designed to encourage greater balance in the curriculum and includes science. GCSE grading changes to 1-9.

  • Setting standards for new GCSEs Ofqual details new grading that will be introduced alongside the new GCSEs from 2017 and 2018 
  • Clarification of statutory requirements of accountability: Centres cannot legally allow pupils at GCSE to take only two of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, and also Computer Science, and claim that they were doing three sciences (or, indeed, take Computer Science and only one of Physics, Chemistry and Biology and claim to be in compliance with the rule to take at least 2 sciences.  The DfE website states that it is not acceptable for a school which has to follow the National Curriculum, but would be possible for a school which doesn't (Academies mainly).  Such a subject combination would not qualify for the EBacc, which requires pupils to take Physics, Chemistry and Biology (or combined science) even though only two grades count towards the EBacc qualification.

Assessment without levels 

  • Advice for schools on assessment after the removal of the national curriculum system of levels for grading children, including the government response and video clips from the chair of the commission and Ofsted
  • See Interim frameworks for  teacher assessment at KS1 and KS2 alid until 2017, including science
  • Performance Descriptors for KS1 and KS2 for the 2014 National Curriculum in England were published in September 2015. These will be used by Y2 and Y6 teachers to make teacher assessments of children’s attainment across KS1 and KS2. In April 2016 exemplification materials for science to support teacher assessment at the end of key stage 1 and key stage 2 were published.
  • Published in May 2017 is the Select Committee report about Primary Assessment we await the new Government’s response. We welcome the recommendation is that "Every Ofsted inspection report should specifically include science as a core subject alongside English and maths, as well as a range of other areas of the curriculum and extra-curricular activities.”
  • View ASE Statement to help with implementation.

Working Scientifically

  • Science Enquiry, now ‘Working Scientifically’, is the continuous area of study in the National Curriculum for Science in England. This open access article gives a good overview of different types of investigations.
  • The report Working Scientifically in the new curriculum (2015), published by the Centre for Industry Education Collaboration, contains progression grids, guidance and child friendly self and peer assessment posters to support all aspects of science enquiry.

  • For Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), this Handbook has been made available for making and reporting judgements against the Early learning Goals. Also note information on The Characteristics of Effective Learning which include elements of working scientifically. Exemplification materials can be downloaded here.

Northern Ireland - Main Guidance

All matters curriculum and assessment can be found at the Council for Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA)

Post Primary


Alongside Wales, Northern Ireland is retaining A*-G grading system and as such will be developing any qualifications which are not currently offered by either awarding organisation at GCSE.

Practical assessment

All separate science CCEA GCSEs are now accredited for delivery September 2016 which include formally assessed practical skills component worth 20% uniform marks at both AS and A2. 


Modular assessment remains, but the January series is removed.

CCEA Past Papers

Inclusing GCSE single award science, double award science and entry certificate.

A Levels

New A-Level specifications are on the CCEA website:

AS and A level remain linked qualification (no decoupling), and both CCEA and WJEC will continue to assess practical skills directly worth 20%.

To meet local needs of industry, a single and double award A Level in Life and Health Sciences has been developed by CCEA. This is the only new A level to be formally mapped like the separate sciences to of Ofqual/NI regulator requirements for Maths as well as having compulsory chemistry physics and biology content content as well as including formal assessment of practical skills. This has been developed to produce a more rigorously assessed alternative to Applied Science but taking into account needs of both industry locally and UK more widely.

Primary Science

There is some concern regarding the non-statutory nature of science. A recent report from the NI Assembly looks at the integration of history, geography and science as the World Around Us (WAU). The main issue is that project based learning for science may be ineffective as less than 2% of primary teachers have science at GCE or above so can avoid teaching it. This has been detrimental to science.

Additionally the inspectorate ETINI carried out a review into WAU curriculum, and made recommendations in January 2015.

Teacher recruitment

Locally still a teacher surplus although signs of both PGCE  courses and schools struggling to get physics or chemistry specialists. Locally a major shortage of graduate chemists and physicists for major locally headquartered Life and Health Science based International companies. Recruitment from Southern Ireland and Scotland becoming much more common to meet recruitment needs.

Scotland - Main Guidance

Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence has given rise to new National qualifications which are now being taught throughout the nation

  • This Infographic shows how these relate to existing qualifications.

There is support for National qualifications in Biology, Physics and Chemistry old and new.

  • Principles and practice: science - this is an essential document which sets out the purposes of learning, describes how the experiences are organised, and offers guidance on aspects such as learning and teaching.

New research finds that pupils in Scotland are not being provided with the science equipment and resources to meets the demands of the curriculum and that teachers are insufficiently supported to teach science.

The Scottish Schools Education Research Centre (SSERC) is a Local Authority shared service providing support across all 32 Scottish Education Authorities to teachers and technicians including health and safety advice, CPD, publications and other advisory services. 

Wales - Main Guidance

All curriculum and assessment materials can be found at Learning Wales.

There was a recent review of curriculum and assessment arrangements from Foundation phase to KS4 conducted by Prof. Graham Donaldson. Further resources are being provided to support science as a result of this review.

ASE have published an article explaining the Welsh perspective

Reform to qualifications at AS/A2 and GCSE are ongoing, with WJEC been the only awarding body to agree to develop specifications for Wales.

Last updated 26 February 2016.