This overview should be read together with A guide to Curriculum for Wales 2022
Science and Technology draws on the disciplines of biology, chemistry, computer science, design and technology, and physics to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the world.
Developments in both Science and Technology have always been drivers of change in society, underpinning innovation and impacting on everyone’s lives, materially, economically and culturally. As such, this area of learning and experience will be consistently relevant in the opportunities young people encounter and the life choices that they make.
The importance of scientific and technological literacy in our modern world cannot be understated. It is not sufficient that learners can simply ‘do’ Science and Technology. Ready access to vast amounts of information requires all learners to be able to assess inputs critically, understand the basis of information presented as fact, and make informed judgements that impact their own behaviours and values. They need to develop the ability to meaningfully ask the question, ‘Just because we can, does that mean we should?’.
A transformational curriculum
The White Paper Our National Mission: A Transformational Curriculum set out the detailed legislative proposals for Curriculum for Wales 2022.
The proposal is that funded non-maintained settings and schools will be required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum that meets the four purposes of the curriculum, and comprises the six areas of learning and experience. There will be statutory duties to teach Welsh, English, religious education, relationships and sexuality education, and the three cross-curricular responsibilities of literacy, numeracy and digital competence. Further information on how the Science and Technology Area of Learning and Experience can support this is provided in the ‘Developing a broad and balanced curriculum’ section of this document.
Funded non-maintained settings and schools will have discretion as to how they design their school-level curriculum to meet their curriculum duties. However, in considering the exercise of that discretion, they must have regard to statutory guidance issued by Welsh Ministers. In practice, that means they should follow the statutory guidance unless they have good reason not to.
This statutory guidance for the Science and Technology Area of Learning and Experience, which forms part of the wider Curriculum for Wales 2022 statutory guidance, is intended to provide a national framework that funded non‑maintained settings and schools can build on to develop their own curriculum. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive syllabus, nor a guide for organising timetables. It sets out:
- what funded non-maintained settings and schools should take into account in designing their curriculum and how it could be structured
- the broad expectations for learners for the Science and Technology Area of Learning and Experience at each progression step.
Supporting the four purposes of the curriculum
Science and Technology uses prediction, testing and questioning to develop theories and innovations that increase our understanding of both our physical and digital worlds and that aim to improve our lives.
Ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives understand that if repeatable observations, prototypes or experimental results do not support an idea, the idea should be rejected or modified and tested again. Learners who are enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work embrace such challenges, as they are encouraged to take risks, to innovate and evaluate, and learn to develop solutions. Thus, they can become more resilient and purposeful learners across all areas of learning and experience.
Through robust and consistent evaluation of scientific and technological evidence, learners are then supported to become ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world, who will be able to make informed decisions about future actions. Healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society are also informed by knowledge of their bodies and the ecosystems around them, and of how technological innovations can support improvements in health and lifestyle. Indeed it is hoped that the knowledge and deep understanding gained through experiencing What Matters in Science and Technology will help them live independent and fulfilling lives that see them contributing to society in a variety of ways.
Relationships between what matters statements
The six what matters statements capture the key aspects of learning for Science and Technology. They are designed to operate together, and support settings and schools to develop a more detailed and holistic curriculum for learning and teaching.
What matters statements within this area of learning and experience do not align exactly with traditional subject areas. However, aspects of the traditional Science and Technology subjects can be identified throughout. What also comes to the fore are the links between these aspects of what matters in Science and Technology. For example, the discovery of new knowledge, as well as validation of existing knowledge using scientific and technological reasoning, connects what matters statements throughout the area of learning and experience. Similarly, energy is a core concept across all the disciplines.
The first of the six what matters statements for Science and Technology embraces using evidence derived in different ways in order to question ideas, form opinions and deepen scientific and technological understanding, while also highlighting the impact of Science and Technology. The design and engineering what matters statement champions the technical and creative experiences, skills and knowledge needed to design and shape engineered solutions. Living things and the study of organisms and how they compete to survive is central to the third aspect of this area of learning and experience. The fourth then urges learners to discover more about the nature of matter, and what things are made of, and how they behave and interact. The relationship between forces and energy and how it impacts on us is set out in the fifth what matters. The final statement introduces a new curriculum focus, one which addresses how computation can be applied to solve problems across Science and Technology.
Learner progression in Science and Technology is developed through experiencing and building knowledge in a range of related ideas, concepts and principles, while embedding practical and wider skills to define a problem, explore ideas, produce solutions and justify choices. The ‘Principles of progression’ used in the development of achievement outcomes in this area of learning and experience are contained within the ‘Learning’ section under each what matters statement.
Starting from a more immediate sense of the world, learners develop the ability to consider others and the wider world. Learners move from describing ideas to being able to explain them, and their analysis and description move from qualitative to quantitative. In their progression, learners begin by recognising single factors before developing the ability to consider multiple factors. Their development of simple skills through imitation and manipulation matures into more elaborate skills that enable perfecting and articulating.
While progression in this area of learning and experience is similar across the disciplines, there are key differences between how a learner might progress in the sciences as opposed to design. Progression for most of the area of learning and experience may be represented through either the physical or the intellectual. However, for design and engineering this is not necessarily the case, as the outcome will most often be physical. Thinking often moves from concrete ideas to an abstract understanding within science and computation, while in design and engineering learners can progress from more abstract ideas to concrete outputs.
Developing a broad and balanced curriculum
Literacy, numeracy and digital competence
The cross-curricular responsibilities of literacy, numeracy and digital competence support almost all learning and are essential for learners to be able to participate successfully and confidently in the modern world.
Science and Technology provides learners with a wide range of opportunities to develop their literacy skills. Learners need every opportunity to explain their thinking, explore and discuss ideas, and use their literacy skills appropriately in order to communicate their ideas. They will describe and justify their understanding with increasing complexity.
Oracy, whether as group discussions or debates, will support learners’ writing and give them a voice into their writing, particularly where they are challenged by difficult concepts. They need opportunities to ‘think aloud’; listening, discussing and exploring ideas with each other.
Science and Technology is rich in specialised words, many of which have both everyday as well as technical definitions. Improving learners’ spelling, range of technical vocabulary and understanding of the origin of terms, improves their understanding of Science and Technology. Using specialised vocabulary will also develop both writing and a range of reading techniques, such as close reading, skimming and scanning, through access to a range of specialised texts which will deepen understanding and stimulate active discussions.
Learners can reinforce their numeracy skills and apply mathematical knowledge within Science and Technology in a variety of ways. Science and Technology offers opportunities for learners to engage in a wide range of collaborative investigative tasks. Both within and beyond the classroom they can learn to design, create, measure, interpret data, make deductions and draw conclusions, based on evidence.
Learners can work quantitatively, gathering data by making observations and taking measurements. Working independently, and in collaboration, they will design and create prototypes and engineering products with accuracy and precision.
Learners should have the opportunities to develop and refine their numeracy as they process data using calculation, tabulation and graphing skills to research and develop their ideas. The development of these skills will allow learners to make judgments about the accuracy of data with increasing maturity. Learners develop further by changing information from text to data and vice versa, e.g. through interpreting information presented in tables and graphs to identify patterns and describe trends.
Science and Technology gives learners an abundance of opportunities to develop and apply digital skills appropriately. It is important to recognise, however, that this area of learning and experience is not the sole home of digital competence, nor the only opportunity to develop these skills.
Learners should critically evaluate the science and technology they use and develop so that they are prepared to encounter the positive and negative aspects of being a digital citizen. For example, as they source information and understand how to store data appropriately on different systems, they will become more mindful of the implications of data laws. They should also explore methods of electronic communication and identify which are the most effective for given situations.
As learners work, both independently and collaboratively, they should access opportunities to participate in the iterative process of planning, creating, evaluating and improving digital content. Inquiry, problem-solving and thinking skills can all be developed, allowing learners to understand problems with increasing complexity and, importantly, when to use technology appropriately to solve them.
Learners will combine multimedia components in increasingly complex ways, requiring greater consideration of the audience and the purpose of digital content. Learners should have opportunities to gain an understanding of the importance of data and information literacy by exploring aspects of collection, representation and analysis associated with data handling and modelling.
Welsh dimension and international perspective
Learners should explore how Wales’ geography, resources and workforce shaped the scientific activity and technological industry of the country, and how it could influence our future society, culture and economy.
Learning about the histories of people with ties to Wales who have contributed to our understanding of the world and key technological advancements is valuable. Celebration of Welsh individuals who currently work successfully in science and technology will inspire learners in an accessible and relevant manner. Equally valuable are the contributions of people from a range of nationalities who work in science and technology in Wales.
The contexts provided by Welsh industry should be used to bring learning to life across the area of learning and experience. Welsh industrial facilities, both traditional and contemporary, involve a wealth of interdependent scientific and technological aspects which can be used to provide powerful reinforcement of learning in a Welsh context. Wales benefits from, and contributes to, international science and technology projects, providing the expertise and skills required to help make these collaborations a success.
Our environmental impact transcends geographical and political boundaries. The effects of industrial activities on Wales’ ecology and the effects of Wales’ activities on ecosystems in other countries should be a focus, where appropriate.
Through Science and Technology all learners can develop and apply all the wider skills to become more accomplished, resilient and independent learners. As a result, they will become capable and deal more effectively with the opportunities and challenges they face as individuals and members of society, both now and in the future.
Critical thinking and problem-solving
Critical thinking and problem‑solving are at the heart of Science and Technology when analysing problems to develop models, solutions and innovations. It helps learners to develop a deeper understanding of the concepts and competencies required to progress. Science and Technology provides rich contexts for learners to engage in making reasoned judgements, decisions and conclusions, and to develop their ideas, including in the field of computation. Learners will be able to develop their problem-solving skills and personal resilience by learning through failure and feedback from others. Learners will develop their self-evaluation through the critical-thinking processes.
Planning and organisation
Planning and organisation are key in scientific and technological processes. Learners will be able to organise and plan their own projects and ideas, while setting their own goals within distinct requirements. They will be able to critically evaluate their progress and results to further improve their ideas and outcomes.
Creativity and innovation
Curiosity and inquisitiveness develop creativity and innovation; learners should explore and develop ideas and put them into action. Creative thinking is defined as the thinking that enables learners to apply their imagination to generating ideas, designs, questions and hypotheses, experimenting with alternatives, and evaluating their own and their peers’ ideas, final products and processes. These areas are essential to problem-solving and effective design.
Science and Technology enables learners to reflect on their own understanding of the world around them. Through this they can form clear, strong values which inform achievable life goals, and enable them to develop as effective citizens. Reflecting on scientific and technological processes can develop personal effectiveness, evaluation of strengths and areas for development, better solutions to problems, and the creation of new innovations.
Careers and work-related experiences
Learning from careers and labour market information
This is a key area for Science and Technology as it is essential for learners to develop an understanding of the real world and contexts for possible employment, as well as life skills. Employers’ need for science and technology-based knowledge and skills remains strong.
Science and technology are crucial to Wales’ success. Knowledge-intensive organisations and highly skilled people make a major contribution towards innovation, economic growth and the quality of our public services. While related occupations are generally well paid and rewarding, many experience significant ongoing skills shortages and are unable to find suitable candidates to fill vacancies.
Linking the area of learning and experience to careers and work-related experiences
Learners should be encouraged to undertake research and explore the links between Science and Technology and their related career paths. Both science and technology equip learners with the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue careers related to these disciplines. More importantly, the transferable skills which sit at the heart of scientific and technological understanding contribute to learners’ preparation for professions and jobs that do not yet exist.
The skills developed through Science and Technology are transferable, highly valued and sought after in the wider employment market. These include problem-solving, interpreting data and information, reasoning ability and the ability to think logically. While there isn’t a ‘typical’ science and technology job, traditional stereotypes persist and need to be challenged. Females, those with disabilities and those from minority or socially disadvantaged groups are consistently under-represented. With the introduction of careers-related education in primary schools these sorts of stereotypes can be tackled from an early age – an age when they are often formed. A more diverse workforce with rounded scientific and technological understanding is not just desirable in terms of equality, but essential to maximising opportunities for all learners and meeting Wales’ economic needs.
Learner progression relating to careers and work-related experiences is part of a continuum of learning for learners aged 3 to 16. Success for a young primary school learner could include:
- acting a variety of different jobs through role play
- belief that they can do any job – tackling gender stereotyping
- communicating with people in their community about the different jobs they do and the rewards that a job can bring.
By progressing learning, success for 16-year-old learners could include:
- demonstrating and applying the skills learned in relation to the world of work
- identifying interests, strengths and skills to make informed post-16 choices
- understanding and demonstrating the behaviours an employer looks for in a good employee
- evaluating risks when developing a business idea and exploring different methods of setting up and sustaining an enterprise.
Learners develop interests, strengths, knowledge, skills and aspirations through their educational experiences within and beyond school. A range of partners support these exciting journeys through co-design and co-delivery and together they shape learners’ decisions about their future and the pathways they follow. Opportunities such as visits, guest speakers and practical activities can help to enhance and contextualise learning.
Collaboration and access to individuals and employers provide learners with opportunities to learn about work, employment and the skills valued in the workplace. Learners can use the knowledge and skills gained from taking part in work-related experiences to develop successful enterprise activities. These can provide an authentic learning experience which helps them develop as creative, enterprising contributors, forming links to the world of work.
Effective careers guidance is essential in establishing the most appropriate route for learners’ aspirations, informing them of the wide range of entry points and pathways into further learning and the world of work. Learners should have opportunities to foster entrepreneurial skills and to make them aware of the benefits of setting up an enterprise.
Understanding post-16 and higher education opportunities
It is essential for learners to be aware of all opportunities available to them post-16. Therefore, as well as understanding about employment, training and apprenticeships, learners should be provided with information and the opportunity to engage with a range of learning providers. Opportunities for engagement should include attending careers and skills fairs, talks from and visits to further and higher education providers, as well as presentations from students in further or higher education. Learners should be directed to online research tools that provide course and progression information to support their understanding of the range of learning opportunities available, to help raise their aspirations and form a basis on which informed decisions can be made.
Relationships and sexuality education
Science and Technology offers learners the opportunity to study the scientific basis of relationships and sexuality education. Opportunities can be strengthened depending on practitioners’ approach. There are clear links between this area of learning and experience and health and well-being.
Through Science and Technology, learners will understand that the survival of the human race is based on relationships between individuals. This interdependency is essential for the continuation of life. Children, the elderly, and vulnerable individuals are more dependent on others.
Values, rights, culture and sexuality
Through the study of living things, learners will come to understand that we are all unique, due to genetic variation and environmental influence. Every human has a right to be respected and can contribute to society, regardless of their differences. We are all valuable and have a right to be treated with dignity and respect. Incorrect assumptions and stereotyping, which may lead to stigma and discrimination, can be harmful to individuals’ well-being and violate their human rights. Scientific understanding by learners can help to dispel such assumptions and reduce stereotyping.
Through the study of living things, learners will explore the difference between genetically determined sex as opposed to gender, and the importance of the difference between the two. Through this, learners will be able to understand that a person’s gender identity may not match their biological sex.
Relationships and sexuality and health and well-being
The study of health and diseases provides learners with the opportunity to develop scientific understanding in support of their own informed decisions about their sexual health and well-being.
The human body and development
Through studying living things, learners will know the names and function of their sexual and reproductive organs. They will learn about the role hormones play in growth, puberty and reproduction, and how that can also affect people’s emotions.
Sexuality and sexual behaviour
Through studying health and diseases, learners should be given opportunities to understand how contraceptives work, from a biological perspective, and their relative efficiency in preventing different sexually transmitted diseases. This knowledge enables them to make more informed decisions about their own sexual behaviour.
Enrichment and experiences
Enrichment and experiences are integral to Science and Technology and provide opportunities for all learners to experience holistic and authentic contexts. Through making fundamental connections within Science and Technology learners will develop a stronger understanding of the world around them and their place within it.
Exploration and experience of the world through inquiry (including fieldwork, investigating indoor and outdoor environments in a safe and systematic way) are crucial for all learners. Learners will enhance their understanding of different environmental issues and learn to demonstrate care, responsibility, concern and respect for all living things and the environment in which they live.
Developing a range of partnerships and engaging with science and technology professionals, experts and craftspeople can broaden experiences to deepen their understanding of processes and application. They should experience electronic and digital technologies to enhance their learning and deepen their understanding of future breakthroughs.
Learners should have opportunities to work both independently and collaboratively to investigate, design, develop and evaluate their outcomes. They should work iteratively towards a purposeful outcome to develop resilience and perseverance, where failure can be seen as a stepping stone to success and creativity is celebrated.
Putting the area of learning and experience into practice
The Science and Technology Area of Learning and Experience will need to be used by settings and schools with the four purposes of the curriculum central to the planning of the experiences, knowledge and skills learners will encounter. Therefore, practitioners must consider how their teaching and curriculum provision contribute to the development of these characteristics within learners in Wales.
As a matter of principle, practitioners should be free to decide on the organisation of this area of learning and experience, making important decisions about sequencing scientific and technological concepts. Such decisions should be informed by the hierarchic and connected nature of concepts set out in the area of learning and experience, including the range of suggested ‘strands’ of progression, in order to ensure foundations in learning are built on and experiences are connected.
Making the most of a multidisciplinary approach to curriculum development provides learners with a more coherent learning experience. Deep understanding can develop through planning across all six statements of what matters in science and technology learning, and the connection and application of these in a range of contexts. The learning undertaken in one aspect can reinforce and support work across different disciplines in a timely manner. To achieve this, cohesive and coherent curriculum planning across traditional disciplinary boundaries is crucial. However, practitioners will also wish to consider the need for more discrete disciplinary learning and teaching; this becomes increasingly important as learners progress.
The planned sequencing of Science and Technology learning and teaching should consider the development of the knowledge or skills learners need, in advance of engaging them in more practical activities or inquiry. Practical learning experiences of a specific, thematic or multidisciplinary nature should strengthen prior learning and conceptual understanding, not simply engage learners in memorable and enjoyable tasks. As learners progress in their Science and Technology learning, particularly in secondary settings, there is an expectation that they will experience subject specialist teaching. Specialist teaching should enhance and be integral to multidisciplinary approaches to curriculum planning, and is essential to ensure learners are best prepared for further learning post-16. Standards and rigour should be advanced by this process.
Teaching should also be based on sound evidence and expertise. Evidence should be drawn from local, cluster-wide, regional and national information, using a range of established sources, e.g. the National Network for Excellence in Science and Technology. Practitioners should also seek to collaborate with a range of experts and stakeholders when engaging in curriculum development, including local businesses and science, technology, engineering and mathematics stakeholder organisations.