Science For All

About the project

Background to the Project

It is estimated that about one in every 100 school children in the UK is on the autistic spectrum (Source: The National Autistic Society). This gives us a very rough figure (from the 2001 census) of around 133,500 schoolchildren who have some form of autism.

With mainstream schools increasingly taking responsibility for inclusive education and the provision of schooling for children with special educational needs (SEN), many of these children will be educated outside of special schools.

However, there is very little in the way of dedicated subject-specific continuing professional development (CPD) provision for science teachers in special schools, nor for those who work in the mainstream but have children with special educational needs in their classes.

Developing Science For All

For the last two years, the Centre for Science Education (CSE) has been working with teachers and teaching assistants (TAs) with expertise in special educational needs on an exciting CPD project called Science for All. The teachers and TAs come from two different educational environments: special schools (The Forest School, Knaresborough and Ravenshall School, Dewsbury) and schools with an integrated SEN resource (King Ecgbert’s School and Birley Community College, Sheffield).

The project, led by Andy Bullough, has four key aims:

  • To make science learning more accessible, effective and enjoyable by using varied approaches to teaching and learning that are more suitable to engaging SEN pupils;
  • To develop resources and associated case studies, by producing a variety of tried and tested resources that engage SEN youngsters in their science lessons and, from these experiences, develop case studies;
  • To develop high quality CPD, supporting bespoke curriculum development work both within one school and within a network of schools; and
  • Enhancing dissemination of Science for All by developing a narrative to underpin the resources and their case studies.

Science for All considers the project teachers and TAs as the experts in special educational needs. With a very ‘bottom up’ approach, it allows classroom and pupil experience to shape and inform the project outputs. The teachers' and TAs' experience of working with challenging learners is central to the project’s success and to the resources that it has created. The project outputs of Science for All aim to help pupils described as having complex needs, rather than physical disabilities, by sharing classroom strategies that best motivate these learners.

With three project meetings a year, and in school visits made by Andy to help the teachers progress and refine their ideas, the project also aims to establish and foster an active community of practice, based around the shared aim of resource development. The meetings are a forum for the teachers to discuss ideas and their work and to share thoughts on how the project is working for them and their pupils.

The Science for All resources outline practical techniques and strategies that a teacher can use to help motivate and support pupil engagement in science lessons, and aim to help develop the pupils' functional skills. The first year of the project (2010-11) resulted in the production of seven teaching and learning resources. These include: using cameras and velcro in science lessons; using writing frames; a science resources and terms box; and a tool to support graph drawing.

The second year of the project September 2011-2012 resulted in four new resources, including material on working with digital media (with video games) and creating a ‘wonder space’ to enthuse youngsters. Work has also continued to develop further the resources from the first year of the project, in order to make them more comprehensive. For example, the creation of data sets for use with the graph-plotting tool to make its use more effective, and the contents of the science resources and terms boxes, have been increased and diversified.

In addition, each of the Science for All teachers has written a case study to accompany his/her resources. These case studies illustrate the thinking behind the resources and show how they have been used with pupils. These are further augmented with short bespoke films of the project teachers talking about the resources that they have developed, and the rationale behind them. In some cases, pupils speak about how they found using the materials. These have proved popular at dissemination events.

Science For All Case studies and resources can be downloaded from our Stuff We Made web page, along with selected videos.

Autism Centre Partnership

The Autism Centre at Sheffield Hallam University considered four of the case studies produced in the first year of Science for All and compiled a short report that identified issues that may have particular relevance for young people on the autism spectrum, in relation to the learning and teaching of science. This helped to add value to the resources, drawing out the rationale as to why they work, and giving a theoretical framework to pragmatic and classroom-based materials and teacher experiences.

The involvement of the Autism Centre has not only helped the Science for All team in furthering their understanding of their work and reasoning, but will also give other teaching professionals confidence in the approaches suggested and help to further inform them.

For example, the Autism Centre identified that using photographs in science lessons to record what the pupils are doing may sound a simple exercise, but actually has a far deeper significance if the way in which the pictures are used is carefully considered. Photographs can be used to help those who have a visual learning style to assist with recall in the subsequent lessons, and help to capture ephemeral aspects of learning. They can also record achievement in a way that is very personal to the pupil, rather than a teacher or parent and, in this way, allow the pupil to see him- or herself as a learner who is making progress.

You can download the report by Nick Hodge and Sue Chantler from the Autism Centre in PDF format below.


Why science and special educational needs?

The project’s emphasis on science results from Andy’s experience as a curriculum developer as well as the focus of the funding body of the project - the Primary Science Teaching Trust (formerly known as AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust). However, many of the resources and approaches used could be easily adapted to areas of the curriculum other than science, making their potential impact wider still.

Get in touch

For further details, please contact Andy Bullough on 0114 225 4870 or e-mail: