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Science KS3 Curriculum FAQs

Key changes at KS3

Q: What's new?

A: The new KS3 science curriculum is more demanding, with more maths, and How Science Works replaced by new Working Scientifically. Working Scientifically is tougher, with inclusion of terms and techniques previously introduced at KS4, and new references to specific variables, predictions and hypothesis. Some new areas of content have also been brought down into KS3 from KS4, such as aerobic and anaerobic respiration, exothermic and endothermic reactions and relative motion.

Levels have also been removed, and schools must devise their own assessment systems.


Q: Is there new content to cover?

A: New areas of content that were previously in KS4 have been brought into KS3, as well as changes in approach to some subject content. New topics include:

  • DNA
  • anaerobic respiration
  • endothermic and exothermic reactions
  • torque
  • relative motion
  • power calculations
  • diffusion in cells

  • There are also differences in content for auditing energy change, light as a wave, and forces as interaction pairs. For full details of new content, refer to the programme of study.


    Q: Will there be any guidance on attainment targets and assessment?

    A: The old National Curriculum levels have been removed and declared 'not fit for purpose', with no replacement being specified. However by the end of the key stage, students are expected to know, apply and understand the matters, skills and processes in the programme of study.

    Schools must therefore devise an assessment system that allows them to track against the blocks of content and skills required by the programme of study, whilst still ensuring progress. Any assessment schools devise for themselves will need to be at least as good as the previous system of levels when inspected by Ofsted.

    Preparation for the new GCSEs

    Q: How can I start to prepare my KS3 students for GCSE?

    A: The new GCSEs (first teaching from September 2016) will be tougher in terms of both content and skills, and students will need to be prepared for this when they leave KS3. The mathematical requirements of the GCSE have been increased, and students will be expected to demonstrate 'quantitative problem solving' in exams. They will also be assessed on their extended writing skills.

    Activate for KS3 science incorporates GCSE preparation from Year 7, with maths, literacy and working scientifically embedded throughout to build these key skills. There are also exam-style questions with GCSE command words and Quality of Written Communication (QWC) incorporated throughout. Activate introduces a flexible assessment package that can be used with or without levels, devised by assessment expert Dr Andrew Chandler-Grevatt. New GCSE resources available from 2016 will feature a five-year progress tracking and assessment solution, building on the assessment principles in Activate.

    Working Scientifically

    Q: What about How Science Works?

    A: How Science Works has been replaced with Working Scientifically. Working Scientifically is more demanding, with inclusion of terms and techniques previously introduced at KS4.

    Students will need to:

  • ask scientific questions
  • form hypotheses using scientific knowledge and understanding, and make predictions
  • identify independent, dependent and control variables and other factors to be taken into account when collecting evidence and data
  • suggest possible improvements to scientific method
  • evaluate data, showing awareness of potential sources of random and systematic error
  • identify further questions arising from their results
  • use and derive simple equations
  • pay attention to objectivity and concern for validity, accuracy, precision and measurement of uncertainty

  • For the full list of Working Scientifically requirements, refer to the programme of study.


    Q: Will there be further guidance on what I should teach?

    A: All guidance has been outlined in the statutory guidance and programme of study. Currently, there are no known plans for further guidance from the Department of Education.

    Maths and literacy

    Q: Are there any expectations for maths and literacy skills to be developed in science?

    A: Yes. Maths and literacy skills are considered key to success in the new curriculum, and should be developed in scientific contexts at Key Stage 3. Further information can be found in the statutory guidance document.