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Science Tutoring for Year 7, 8 & 9: What’s the Difference?

15/02/2024 / Science Tuition

There’s no denying that moving from primary school to high school is a big change! In fact, Years 7, 8 and 9 are just as important as later years of schooling, even if they draw less attention than preparation for GCSE and A level exams. That’s because they provide a foundation for later, more advanced learning. A student who masters the basics in Key Stage 3 is well set up for success in Year 10 and beyond. And if your child is aiming for a STEM career, then securing those foundations in science is a really good call.

That’s just one reason why hiring a private science tutor is often a smart decision for parents and guardians of Year 7 students. There’s a lot that a science tutor can help a Year 7, 8 or 9 student with in each year – and the demands of the curriculum will change a little with each year too.

So, if you opt for a Key Stage 3 science tutor, what can you expect your tutor will focus on through these years? How will the tutoring adapt to the requirements of each age group? In this article, we’ll delve into the differences between Year 7, 8 and 9 science tutoring, exploring how they add up into overall strengthened science skills and good preparation for science GCSEs.

What might a year 7 science tutor focus on?

At the start of Year 7, science tutors will likely focus their attention first on helping students to transition smoothly to high school science.

Primary school science capabilities differ, but many students arrive at high school with little experience using laboratory equipment such as Bunsen burners. With a science tutor, Year 7 students may focus at the start of the year on learning about this equipment and becoming comfortable using each piece of equipment’s proper name. In fact, learning correct scientific terminology is an important aspect of Key Stage 3, so understanding lab equipment will start students off on the right foot.

Additionally, a good Year 7 science tutor will be aware of the UK curriculum’s requirements for Key Stage 3 and will work to prepare their student to move toward this higher level of responsibility and thinking in comparison with their Key Stage 2 work. Some of the points of focus identified in the national curriculum for Key Stage 3 in England are that students can:

  • Use scientific vocabulary appropriately
  • Use mathematics in science
  • Begin to see how ideas in biology, chemistry and physics are linked with one another, such as how energy plays a part in all of these disciplines
  • “Think scientifically” and understand the scientific method
  • Work accurately and using the appropriate units

In other words, the approach to science is a little more mature and detailed and includes more big picture thinking and deeper understanding of concepts. It also emphasises the “thinking scientifically” aspect that is important throughout the English science curriculum. For example, while primary school students might have made circuits using batteries, high school students should begin to connect these circuits to larger ideas about energy in the world. That requires a fuller understanding of what energy really is.

So, a Year 7 science tutor might help their student develop a “scientist’s mindset” – a way of approaching science that involves making hypotheses, recording findings in detail and using the right units. Not to mention making sure to use the terminology that’s been introduced in lessons.

Beyond this aspect, the Key Stage 3 curriculum material is simply a little more complex in each discipline of science. For example, students in primary school simply learn that plants need light, water and soil to survive, but the term “photosynthesis” or the details of this process are not introduced. In Key Stage 3, students will be expected to develop a deeper understanding of how plants are fuelled, and eventually they will be expected to be able to use the word “photosynthesis.” A good Year 7 science tutor will be able to guide students gently toward this deeper understanding of concepts, without allowing the increased complexity and vocabulary to become overwhelming.

Ideally, by the end of Year 7, your child will feel more comfortable with the different expectations and approaches of high school biology, chemistry and physics.

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What might a Year 8 science tutor focus on?

A good Year 8 science tutor will, firstly, ensure that the work of Year 7 is done – that a student is ready to approach the increased rigours of high school science and laboratory work, in comparison to the simpler science learning of primary school.

Once this is achieved, a Year 8 science tutor will help a student continue toward deepening understanding of science topics. Since the English Key Stage 3 science curriculum allows schools some flexibility as to exactly which topics from within the curriculum are taught in which year, a Year 8 science tutor will follow the classroom teacher’s lead as more complex topics are gradually introduced.

In their work with a science tutor, Year 8 students will also be monitored to ensure they are firmly grasping each topic on which others will build. This helps students to avoid situations in which they are unable to progress later because they are lacking understanding of an earlier, simpler concept. In fact, the English Key Stage 3 curriculum specifically warns about this concern, saying that students must “develop secure understanding of each key block of knowledge and concepts in order to progress to the next stage.”

What might a Year 9 science tutor focus on?

When they’re working with a science tutor, Year 9 students will likely begin to think about GCSEs, especially as the year progresses. They might start to consider whether the school is likely to encourage them to take separate or combined science GCSE, or foundation or higher level GCSE, and whether these expectations accord with their own wishes.

In fact, although Year 9 feels early to think about A levels, it’s not premature for all students to begin thinking about them. Certain courses of science study at university require certain science A levels, and schools may require students to achieve particular marks in GCSE science in order to begin particular A level courses.

That’s why experience teaching the UK curriculum is invaluable for a science tutor. Year 9 students benefit from a tutor who knows what’s coming up on the horizon and what challenges they’ll be facing at GCSE.

However, tutoring is personalised…

These are some general ideas about what science tutors might be most concerned with in each year. However, one of the most valuable things about tutoring is that it’s personalised to each student’s exact needs. So, in fact, a good science tutor might not focus at all on the aspects we’ve mentioned for the applicable year if they’re not what a student requires.

For example, although we’ve discussed the importance of scientific terminology in Year 7 when students transition from primary to secondary level science, that terminology continues to be important throughout Key Stage 3. With the help of a science tutor, Year 9 students might still want and need to improve their memorisation of scientific terminology if that’s the main aspect of their work that needs attention.

What’s more, a science tutor might not necessarily focus only on science. If a student’s struggles with organisation, mathematics or expressing themself clearly in writing are causing issues in science, a science tutor might choose to focus on these topics too, as they relate to science.

Emotions are important in schooling as well. Sometimes students need help reducing their anxiety and increasing their confidence, especially if they’ve struggled in science previously. Improving a student’s self-esteem regarding their science abilities is a perfectly valid tutoring goal in science – and it can help students to approach their GCSEs with less trepidation and anxiety as well.

Making Key Stage 3 science great with Principal Tutors

Whether a student is in Year 7, 8 or 9, science tutoring can really help them achieve their best today and prepare them to achieve their best in the future.

However, not all science tutors provide the same quality of tutoring. As we’ve discussed, a deep understanding of the appropriate science curriculum is a must for any science tutor. It ensures they’re aware of the expectations of students at their current age and in future years, allowing tutors to ease students into higher levels of thinking gradually and skilfully.

Fortunately, at Principal Tutors every one of our tutors is a qualified teacher with experience teaching the UK curriculum. And what’s more, we prioritise the individualisation of tutoring too. That’s why we pride ourselves on our ability to match students with just the right tutor from our tutor pool. We know that when we find the tutor who not only meets your child’s needs but is a great match for their personality and learning style, great things can result.

What else can our tutors do to support your child in Year 7, 8, 9 or beyond? We’ll be happy to talk more with you about our tutoring philosophy and our tutors’ skills. Just give our expert team a call on 0800 772 0974 or fill out our online form.


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