21st-century thinking skills

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A north Northumberland school’s science curriculum has made it to the final nine of a national competition.

Dr Thomlinson CofE Middle School, in Rothbury, has been shortlisted in the final nine schools in the Rolls-Royce Science Prize out of an orignal 2,000 entries.

The school’s science coordinator Vicki Sharkey said: “I was absolutely amazed and delighted as well as excited about the prospect of putting our ideas into practice.

“The extra £5,000 prize money has so far bought new netbooks for the science department, datalogger sensors as well as other much-needed equipment for the three subjects.”

The honour has its basis in a project which started at the school two years ago and will be extended across the curriculum, when Vicki decided that the science curriculum needed overhauling as it lacked the basic science skills that pupils needed to be successful in science in high school and beyond.

After attending a course at the National Science Learning Centre in York, she started to make the changes to the curriculum by developing a themed approach based on real-life situations – how to get water in the desert or how we float and sink in the Dead Sea, for example.

“This makes science more relevant, motivating and interesting to our pupils,” said Vicki .

“At the same time I have emphasised the development of key science skills by including so much more practical investigations than there were previously.”

Vicki entered her project ideas into the Rolls-Royce Science Prize and earlier this year the school was delighted to be put forward to the next round as one of 50 winning schools, each receiving £1,000.

Headteacher Heather Cape said: “We were thrilled to be recognised for the dedication and hard work that the teachers have put into the project so far.

“It really has put the school firmly on the map.

“We are hoping that before long this will be commonplace in all subjects and across all year groups as we have no doubt that it will have a major impact on pupils, not just in terms of attainment but also in the skills that employers are looking for.”