OFSTED: Research and Analysis – Improving science with the Lab 13 Irchester project

Good practice in Science at Irchester Primary school recognised by Ofstediheart lab13

Yesterday (3rd March 2015) Ofsted published an example of good practice in science teaching. The report celebrates the role of Lab 13 in driving school improvement at Irchester Community Primary School in Northamptonshire.

The Lab 13 project involves a scientist in residence working in school with the pupils and teachers to raise the focus of science and use it as the context through which real and relevant literacy and numeracy skills are learnt. The approach to learning is through pupil led investigations prompted by their questions. The pupils carry out their own investigations guided by the scientist in residence. The teachers benefit from access to ‘in house’ expertise which raises confidence in their ability to teach excellent practical enquiry skills. The results are that ‘The academic rigour and high level of subject knowledge development in pupils’ science work is outstanding’.

The school used science as part of the whole school journey to good. Head teacher Julia Alison said, ‘We recognised that applying this enquiry led approach to teaching and learning across the curriculum we would have a wider impact on pupils’ achievement in both academic and personal development. For the report comments on how the children develop those ‘soft skills’ desired by employers such as project leadership and management and honing critical communication skills.’

This report illustrates how Lab 13 exemplifies the recommendations from the ‘Maintaining curiosity’ (2013) Ofsted summative report into primary science. It exemplifies the requirements of the new national curriculum for primary science.

Raising pupils’ aspirations for the future, especially in STEM related careers, was another strong driver behind the project. The head teacher commented that, ‘We have the highest aspirations for our pupils. We want them to develop the creative, imaginative and problem solving mind they will need to make the most of future learning opportunities at secondary school, university and beyond.

For more information see here goodpracticeinscienceatirchesterprimaryschoolrecognisedbyofsted (1)

To see the Ofsted report see here 

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Gillespie News – Jamming Piano

The Lab_13 committee came up with an idea to make a piano out of jam jars and water! We had jam jars left over from our honey project, and thought of using the jam jars for the piano. We started this piano project on Tuesday 24th February, we think it will take until next week to finish it.

Members of the management committee putting together the piano, using tuning forks to help find the right notes

Members of the management committee putting together the piano, using tuning forks to help find the right notes

With the spatula we hit the jam jars to make a sound. The different amounts of water in the jam jars made the different sounds. The less water, the higher the pitch of the sound, and the greater the amount of water, the lower the pitch is. We tried playing twinkle, twinkle little star, and we got as far as “how I wonder what you are”.

The jamming piano and spatula

The jamming piano and spatula

The Lab_13 committee asked our music teacher Caroline to see if we could borrow some tuning forks. At first, the committee did not know how to use them. Carole explained, then we compared them with our jam jars. We managed to match the C from the tuning fork.

Next week, we are planning to finish the piano and we can show you the final piano!

Written by Zarrin, Y5

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Lab_13 Irchester news

Welcome back everyone! We have just returned from a week off and feel refreshed and ready to go! Just as well, as we have got a couple of BUSY weeks ahead.

bannerJust 3 short weeks until our big moment to shine. Yes, the Lab_13 Lectures are quickly coming! During the Lectures, we are doing a show about the science of “Earworms & Mondegreens”.  Do you know what they are? The people who come to the lectures are going to find out! Already, we have lots of people who would like to sponsor the travel costs for getting other schools to the lectures which shows how much our community values science!

bigbangThe week before we have the Lectures is the Big Bang Fair!  We have got lots of places to go and see the exciting science on show.  To make sure that places are given to children who are keen scientists we are having a competition!  We have used the theme “MOVE IT!!” and students have to tell the science of how something moves through any media they choose. We are expecting a lot of entries!

See you soon,

Harvey and Alfie

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Raspberry Pi powered timelapse!

Recently, we have become interested in timelapse photography. Our top Year 6 coders used a raspberry pi and a raspberry pi camera to capture it. Year 3 Science club set up the seeds and chose the best place to put them. We also decided the timing (a photo an hour over 7days) and told with Ashton, Adam and Oscar who wrote the code. The video is on the Lab_13Irchester Youtube channel.

The only problem we had was designing the structure to hold the camera – in the end we made the perfect one from Knex and Lego! We noticed two strange things. 1. the seeds did not germinate as fast as we thought they would and 2. the seedlings seemed to bend during the day!

However, we then figured out the answers! The camera was set up on Thursday afterschool and therefore did not get watered over the weekend. We think this slowed down the rate at which they began to grow. Secondly, the strange bending was a result of where we decided to put the seeds and camera. During the daytime the seedlings grew towards the sunlight which only shines in Lab_13 after 1 o clock! In the nighttime, they straightened up as we left the lights on and they grew up towards the bulbs!

We thought this was a fun and easy project but we would definitely make some changes if we did it again!

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Starting the Lab_ 13 Lectures!


This year we are hosting our 3rd annual Lab_13 Lectures! Inspired by the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, Irchester do our own version held in the Wollaston School auditorium. This year, the lectures will be on the 18th of March which is right in the middle of British Science Week.

We have booked our fantastic adult presenters and the children who present are working on their top secret lectures too!  There will be experiments, games and lots more that our audience can take part in. This year we have Rick Hall, Chris and Dom and all of us on the committee – we have some ex-committee presenting too.

Our reputation for a fun and exciting science extravaganza has spread and we were fully booked within 2weeks! There are 400children from Year 5,6 and 7 coming from all over Northamptonshire and we have a very full waiting list too!

This is my first time being part of the lectures and I am very excited to be helping out. Everyone is working very hard to make it perfect and to live up to the expectation of Lab_13. We are really looking forward to it, even though it is a lot of pressure and hard work! Lab_13 Lectures is one of our best highlights during the year!!!

Love from Bethany

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Lab_13 Pets at Irchester!

We have some great news!

We have a new lab_13 pet – our Giant African Land Snails have reproduced. LAst week, we were fortunate to notice a teeny semi transparent snail sliding across the glass at the front of the GALS enclosure. It’s unusual to have just one baby but this happened when we found Hawking too. He is now over 12months old.

Snails can start breeding after around 6 months and the larger of the pair will normally carry the eggs. We don’t know which of the adults are parents as African Land Snails are hermaphrodites, meaning that one snail is both both male and female. Often one snail can even “self-fertilise” meaning it can breed by itself! IMG_20150130_140913

Unfortunately, one of the older GALS has died. We rescued them over two years ago, so we were unsure of how old they were. The new baby will be called Shelly Newton after her uncle Newton who died. Here is Shelly on top of Hawking on top of Brunel! Look how big she will grow!

We love having pets in the lab and it is nice to check on them everyday! Shelly’s arrival has brought our pet total back to 13!

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Lab_13 Gillespie news – Volcanoes!

On Monday 10th of February 2015, children of STEM club designed some magnificent volcanoes. Children were following complex instructions, however finished in time. They were painted brown, red and green. The clubbers had to work in pairs or trios. They made these by using sellotape, medium sized bottles, papier-mâché and paint. Although some children did not finish on time the volcanoes were taken home which they brought in the next day. WHOOOOOOOOOH STEM CLUB!!!!

 Written by Aisha A and Faduma D

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