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FOUNDATION YEAR

(1)

Science seems to play a much greater role in the primary school curriculum than it did when I was a child. Back then, science before age 11 seemed to consist of having tadpoles in the classroom and growing an indoor plant. Now, primary school teachers are expected to teach a whole series of scientific concepts to their pupils, and find time for plenty of experiments too. By secondary level, the pressure increases to pursue the sciences, with the humanities reduced to second-rate cousins.

This seems indicative of a sort of ‘scientism’ in our education system (and culture generally) which holds that science is by far the most important subject. From a Catholic perspective, I would argue that subjects which treat of the fundamental metaphysical realities concerning God and man are of greater importance than those which deal only with the material world. This doesn’t mean we avoid science (in fact it’s important to approach science boldly and debunk thoroughly the popular idea that somehow science and faith are incompatible): it simply means that we do not treat it as the most important subject.  My own thoughts on the position which the material sciences should hold in a Catholic curriculum (relative to those which pertain to the fundamental truths about Man) are neatly summed up by Samuel Johnson in his work on Milton:

“The knowledge of external nature, and the sciences which that knowledge requires or includes, are not the great or the frequent business of the human mind. Whether we provide for action or conversation, whether we wish to be useful or pleasing, the first requisite is the religious and moral knowledge of right and wrong; the next is an acquaintance with the history of mankind, and with those examples which may be said to embody truth and prove by events the reasonableness of opinions. Prudence and justice are virtues and excellences of all times and of all places; we are perpetually moralists, but we are geometricians only by chance. Our intercourse with intellectual nature is necessary; our speculations upon matter are voluntary and at leisure.”

The age-specific schedules offered are closely based on the National curriculum for Key Stages 2 and 3. I cannot imagine anyone – at home or in school – covering everything listed here: it seems very ambitious and much of what is scheduled for earlier ages could easily be covered later. So, don’t be overwhelmed by it all: just take what you want from the many ideas on offer. If your child loves science and wants to go further, the ideas are here; if your child isn’t keen, cover the basics and leave the rest for later.

GCSE All science GCSEs contain assessed practical elements, so home-educators opt for IGCSEs which are exam only. Within IGCSEs there are several options: you can take each of the three sciences separately, or you can sit a Double Award in which you study all three sciences in less detail and are awarded two qualifications (depending on which you specialise in); or you can take Combined Science in which you study all three in less detail and end up with just on IGCSE overall. These correspond pretty much exactly to the Core, Double and Triple science offered by the schools at GCSE level. In CIE, the problem of sitting a practical test is dealt with by the provision of an ‘Alternative to Practical’ paper in which the pupil must describe the equipment and methods needed for a specified experiment

 

 

FOUNDATION YEAR

(3)

Discussions about nature, look at library books, Art and craft, nature walks, seasons