Primary schools need to identify their strengths and weaknesses better in science and in design and technology

By the end of primary school, many pupils across Wales have developed a good understanding of basic science concepts such as gravity and magnetism. Nearly all pupils understand the importance of undertaking investigations carefully, and many pupils develop their thinking skills well in science.

However, according to a report published today by Estyn, primary schools should ensure that science lessons challenge all pupils, particularly the more able, and reduce the achievement gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and their classmates. 

Estyn’s report, Science and design and technology at key stage 2, focuses on standards, provision and leadership in science and in design and technology in primary schools in Wales. It recommends that schools should make sure that they teach all areas of the design and technology curriculum. The report found that the schools that do not, tend to leave out the ‘systems and control’ area of the curriculum, where pupils use computer-controlled items, such as programmable toys, and control them by creating instructions.  

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says, 

“In order for schools to identify where their strengths and weaknesses lie in science and in design and technology, they must have strong self-evaluation processes in place. Our report includes fourteen self-evaluation questions that schools can use as a starting point for reviewing their current practice.”

According to the report, schools should also ensure that pupils know and understand what they need to do to improve.  In an example of best practice at Ysgol Gynradd Castell Nedd in Neath, a teacher’s evaluation found that the majority of pupils had difficulty in deciding the best type of graph to use to present different types of science data. This led to a series of lessons to address the issue and nearly all pupils became confident in drawing the right graph when they carried out their next investigation. 

The report also recommends that local authorities and consortia should provide more training opportunities for teachers to improve their teaching and assessment in science and in design and technology and facilitate sharing good practice. 

About the report

Estyn’s report ‘Science and design and technology at key stage 2’ was commissioned by the Welsh Government and is available in full at

The findings and recommendations in this report draw on the analysis of primary school inspections over the last three years and an analysis of end of key stage 2 data for the last five years. This evidence was supported by visits to 20 primary schools and telephone interviews with a further six schools. Estyn identified the schools at random; ensuring that inspectors visited a range based on size, geographical location, proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals, language of instruction and religious characteristic. 

During their visits, inspectors: 

  • observed science and design and technology lessons in key stage 2 
  • scrutinised pupils’ work in both subjects 
  • met representative groups of pupils 
  • reviewed curriculum plans and documentation 
  • interviewed teachers and school leaders 

Case studies from the following schools are included in the report:

  • Victoria Primary School, Wrexham
  • Ysgol Gynradd Castell Nedd, Neath
  • Malpas Court Primary
  • Ysgol Gymraeg Castellau, Rhondda Cynon Taf
  • Ysgol Gymunedol Llwyn yr Eos, Ceredigion

Publication date

Thursday, 13 July, 2017