We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Publication details for Prof Christine Merrell

Tymms, P., Bolden, D.S. & Merrell, C. (2008). Science in English Primary Schools: Trends in Attainment, Attitudes and Approaches. Perspectives on Education: Primary Science (1): 19-42.

Author(s) from Durham


We review trends in attainment, attitudes and approaches to science education in English primary schools
over time. We focus on the primary age range 5–11 years and look at evidence of children’s attainment
levels and attitudes towards science over the last 50 years. Where possible we develop descriptions
of what children know and can do in science as they move through these primary years. This is linked
to changes to the curriculum and to the way in which science and science-related activities have been
approached in the classroom.
Our review considers the international evidence from the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study
(TIMSS) and similar studies that throw light on England’s standing against other countries and how that
has changed over time. We also review the ways in which teachers perceive science and whether those
perceptions have changed over time. Trends of pupils opting for science courses in secondary school are
briefly mentioned. We conclude by relating the findings to some government initiatives and discussing
implications for the future.