Roberta Houghton– Deputy Headteacher at Freethorpe Primary School in Norfolk
A creative curriculum is central to the ethos of Freethorpe Primary School. An imaginative approach to teaching and learning inspires children to work independently, unlocking their potential and nurturing a spirit of inquiry.
At Freethorpe no subject is taught in isolation. From maths to english, geography to art, all learning is connected by a termly theme which children are encouraged to explore. Science plays a big part in this, providing the perfect starting point for many topics, supported by Empiribox.
Headteacher Roberta Houghton explains how Empiribox enables the school’s creative curriculum, building a lifelong love of science and delivering benefits which include – and extend beyond – accelerated pupil progress.
Everything we need to teach practical science
Freethorpe Primary School started using Empiribox five years ago, after looking for a solution to deliver high-quality science teaching and resources. Roberta Houghton also wanted to introduce a practical element to science lessons, to match the school’s ethos of independent learning.
“Practical learning is one of the reasons why we chose Empiribox. The scheme gives children the opportunity to explore by themselves. It provides enough resources for every child to have a go. Empiribox gives us everything we need to teach science.”
It was clear to Roberta that the chance to engage with science through practical investigations would give her pupils the best learning opportunities.
“Children need to be able to have an experience for themselves. They need to be able to experiment. It doesn’t matter how much theory you teach. It’s when children put science into practice that they remember it.’
Enabling a creative curriculum
Inspiring a love of learning means nurturing a spirit of inquiry, and nothing unlocks this like practical science. Taking a different theme each term, Empiribox gives children the chance to investigate physics, biology and chemistry. Teachers at Freethorpe use Empiribox as a starting point for their creative curriculum, as Roberta Houghton explains.
“Empiribox works well for us because although it is a standalone scheme, it forms part of our creative curriculum. We look at the Empiribox learning and map our curriculum around it, making links between the units and other subjects. For example, if we are studying physics, we might look at art and see how we can represent the science creatively. The children conduct their Empiribox experiment and then have a lesson linked directly to it.”
This approach extends throughout the curriculum, and children are encouraged to find connections between science and other subjects. After conducting Empiribox biology experiments pupils were inspired to try their hand at gardening and create amazing artwork.
“The Empiribox biology experiments encouraged the children to do some planting in the school garden. We extended this learning with creative science homework, giving the children a range of activities to choose from. They were inspired to make some beautiful models of flowers which they brought into school. They did this in lots of creative ways which was fantastic.”
This focus on creativity and practical learning has sparked an enthusiasm for science which extends beyond the classroom. Freethorpe School’s Science Co-ordinator Sue Hooper explains.
“There is so much enthusiasm for science among our pupils. They love it because it is practical and hands-on. Every Empiribox lesson is a great experience. Parents say that their children talk about science at home more than any other subject.”
At Freethorpe pupils see every subject as part of a bigger picture. Empiribox allows teachers to build links across the curriculum, keeping pupils switched on to learning and helping to build their confidence.
“We want the children to see the links between different subjects. To discourage the idea that they like or dislike certain subjects. Empiribox helps us to create overlap between subjects, which keeps them engaged in learning.”
This synergy is particularly clear in maths, where the overlap with science helps Year 6 children prepare for SATs testing.
“Empiribox delivers real cross-curricular benefits, particularly for maths. We teach our Year 6 pupils data handling in science, not solely maths. The Empiribox experiments routinely cover graph drawing and data recording and give the children real context.”
Sue Hooper agrees that the Empiribox impact is far-reaching.
“Empiribox builds attributes in so many areas. It boosts literacy through introducing new vocabulary and writing up experiments. It contains lots of maths and really helps with numeracy. It builds life skills and shows the children how to work together. “
Measurable pupil progress
This sense of boosting pupil achievement is borne out by the school’s own data, which shows that children make significant progress within each Empiribox unit. Assessing children at the beginning and end of each unit, teachers have found that the average pupil score can leap by as much as 40%.
“The progress that pupils make with Empiribox is huge. The children start from a very basic level of scientific knowledge and gradually build upon it.”
Because Freethorpe teaches Empiribox in every year group, children have the chance to revisit key themes as they progress through the school. Re-encountering familiar science provides an excellent grounding in key concepts, preparing children for KS3.
“When the children revisit topics, their understanding becomes much greater. We can see that they are engaged and enjoying the learning. The more they enjoy it, the more they remember. Their knowledge and understanding of science at the end of Year 6 is far greater. They go to High School well prepared.”
Preparing pupils for the future
Freethorpe’s creative approach to science teaching gives pupils a can-do attitude, building links between different subjects and a life-long love of learning. Roberta feels confident that her pupils are prepared for the future – wherever they are heading.
“Not all of our pupils will eventually work in science. What’s more important is that they have engaged with different subjects right across the curriculum. This is why Empiribox works for us. It helps us to use science to engage the children in learning.”