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Year 5

How the children should learn science at Upper Key Stage 2


The principal focus of science teaching in Upper Key stage 2 is to enable pupils to develop a deeper understanding of a wide range of scientific ideas. They should do this through exploring and talking about their ideas; asking their own questions about scientific phenomena; and analysing functions, relationships and interactions more systematically. At Upper Key Stage 2, they should encounter more abstract ideas and begin to recognise how these ideas help them to understand and predict how the world operates. They should also begin to recognise that scientific ideas change and develop over time. They should select the most appropriate ways to answer science questions using different types of scientific enquiry, including observing changes over different periods of time, noticing patterns, grouping and classifying things, carrying out comparative and fair tests and finding things out using a wide range of secondary sources of information. Pupils should draw conclusions based on their data and observations, use evidence to justify their ideas, and use their scientific knowledge and understanding to explain their findings.


Further guidance

These opportunities for working scientifically should be provided across years 5 and 6 so that the expectations in the programme of study can be met by the end of year 6. Pupils are not expected to cover each aspect for every area of study.

Planning enquires. Children should plan different types of enquiry to answer questions.

Identifying variables. Children should recognize and control variables where necessary.

Secondary sources. Children should recognize when secondary sources will be most useful to research their ideas and begin to separate opinion from fact.

Using equipment. They should choose the most appropriate equipment. Children should take measurements, using a range of scientific equipment with increasing accuracy and precision.

Collecting data. They should make their own decisions about what observations to make, what measurements to use, and how long make them for.

Recording. They should choose how to record data. Children should record data and results of increasing complexity using scientific diagrams and labels, classification keys, tables and bar and line graphs. They should report and present findings from enquires, including conclusions, causal relationships and explanations of results (in oral and written forms).

Analysing data. Children should use test results to make predictions to set up further comparative and fair test. They should use simple models to describe scientific ideas. They should identify scientific evidence that has been used to support or refute ideas or arguments.

Making Improvements. They should use their results to identify when further tests and observations might be needed


Programmes of study


Animals including humans

This unit of study will need to be taught in conjunction with the school’s sex education policy. This unit involves the children learning about the changes in the human body, including puberty.

The learning journey - Animals including humans

  • Describe the changes as humans develop from birth to old age.

Suggestions for Working Scientifically

Pupils will work scientifically by researching the gestation periods of other animals and comparing them with humans; by finding out and recording the length and mass of a baby as it grows.


Earth and Space

The learning journey – Earth and Space

Pupils should be taught to:

  • Describe the movement of the Earth, and other planets, relative to the Sun in the solar system;
  • Describe the movement of the Moon relative to the Earth;
  • Describe the Sun, Earth and Moon as approximately spherical bodies;
  • Use the idea of the Earth’s rotation to explain day and night and the apparent movement of the Sun across the sky.

Suggestions for Working Scientifically

Pupils will work scientifically by: comparing the time of day at different places on the Earth through internet links and direct communication; creating simple models of the solar system; constructing simple shadow clocks and sundials, calibrated to show midday and the start and end of the school day; finding out why some people think that structures such as Stonehenge might have been used as astronomical clocks.



The learning journey – Forces

  • Explain that unsupported objects fall towards the Earth because of the force of gravity acting between the Earth and the falling object;
  • Identify the effects of air resistance, water resistance and friction, that act between moving surfaces;
  • Recognise that some mechanisms, including levers, pulleys and gears, allow a smaller force to have a greater effect.

Suggestions for Working Scientifically

Pupils will work scientifically by: exploring falling paper cones or cup-cake cases, and designing and making a variety of parachutes and carrying out fair tests to determine which designs are the most effective. They will explore resistance in water by making and testing boats of different shapes. They will design and make products that use levers, pulleys, gears and/or springs and explore their effects.


Living things and their habitats

The learning journey - Living Things and Their Habitats

  • Describe the differences in the life cycles of a mammal, an amphibian, an insect and a bird;
  • Describe the life process of reproduction in some plants and animals.

Suggestions for Working Scientifically

Pupils will work scientifically by: observing and comparing the life cycles of plants and animals in their local environment with other plants and animals around the world (in the rainforest, in the oceans, in desert areas and in prehistoric times), asking pertinent questions and suggesting reasons for similarities and differences. They might try to grow new plants from different parts of the parent plant, for example, seeds, stem and root cuttings, tubers, bulbs. They will observe changes in an animal over a period of time (for example, by hatching and rearing chicks), comparing how different animals reproduce and grow.


Properties and changes of materials

The learning journey – Materials

  • Compare and group together everyday materials on the basis of their properties, including their hardness, solubility, transparency, conductivity (electrical and thermal), and response to magnets;
  • Understand that some materials will dissolve in liquid to form a solution, and describe how to recover a substance from a solution;
  • Use knowledge of solids, liquids and gases to decide how mixtures might be separated, including through filtering, sieving and evaporating;
  • Give reasons, based on evidence from comparative and fair tests, for the particular uses of everyday materials, including metals, wood and plastic;
  • Demonstrate that dissolving, mixing and changes of state are reversible changes;
  • Explain that some changes result in the formation of new materials, and that this kind of change is not usually reversible, including changes associated with burning and the action of acid on bicarbonate of soda.

Suggestions for Working Scientifically

Pupils will work scientifically by: carrying out tests to answer questions, for example, ‘Which materials would be the most effective for making a warm jacket, for wrapping ice cream to stop it melting, or for making blackout curtains?’ They will compare materials in order to make a switch in a circuit. They will observe and compare the changes that take place, for example, when burning different materials or baking bread or cakes. They will research and discuss how chemical changes have an impact on our lives, for example, cooking, and discuss the creative use of new materials such as polymers, super-sticky and super-thin materials.