Science education gives students knowledge about the world and beyond. Through science education, students become more knowledgeable citizens – they are better prepared for higher education and they become informed workers in an increasingly knowledge-rich world.

This Education Review Office report provides examples of good practice in science teaching for Years 5 to 8, in 13 New Zealand state schools. The evaluation included intermediate schools, contributing schools, full primary schools and a Years 7 to 15 secondary school.In order to help schools make the best use of this evaluation, the report gives detailed descriptions of effective practices found in the schools. It also includes the indicators of good practice used by ERO’s review teams, as well as self-review questions that all schools can use to improve the quality of their science teaching.

The Year 5 to 8 age range was chosen for this evaluation because this is when many students make career decisions about science. The New Zealand Council for Education Research (NZCER), citing evidence from an Australian research team, has suggested that most students develop their career aspirations in science before they reach secondary school. In light of this, science teaching in primary years engages students so that they are able to make their future career judgements on the basis of good learning experiences. [1]

The performance of New Zealand primary students in ongoing science testing has indicated concerns in some aspects of science teaching and learning. For example, the National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP) found a small drop in the level of scientific knowledge and understanding of Years 4 and 8 students between 2003 and 2007. The 2007 NEMP science assessment also found that Year 8 students were significantly less engaged in science than they had been in previous years.

This report focuses on capable and competent science teaching, and the importance of school leadership in fostering science education. ERO also found that most schools in this study faced some challenges in developing high quality science education. ERO therefore intends to undertake a large- scale national evaluation of science education, in order to provide a more detailed picture of the overall quality of primary school science across the country, and to identify any system-wide issues that require the attention of policy makers.