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Year 5 Science

Pupils in years 5 and 6 should use their science experiences to: explore ideas and raise
different kinds of questions; select and plan the most appropriate type of scientific
enquiry to use to answer scientific questions; recognise when and how to set up
comparative and fair tests and explain which variables need to be controlled and why.

They should use and develop keys and other information records to identify, classify and
describe living things and materials, and identify patterns that might be found in the
natural environment. 

They should make their own decisions about what observations to make, what measurements to use and how long to make them for, and whether to
repeat them; choose the most appropriate equipment to make measurements and
explain how to use it accurately. 

They should decide how to record data from a choice of familiar approaches; look for different causal relationships in their data and identify evidence that refutes or supports their ideas. 

They should use their results to identify when further tests and observations might be needed; recognise which secondary sources will be most useful to research their ideas and begin to separate opinion from fact. 

They should use relevant scientific language and illustrations to discuss,
communicate and justify their scientific ideas and should talk about how scientific ideas
have developed over time.

These opportunities for working scientifically should be provided across years 5 and 6 so
that the expectations in the programme of study can be met by the end of year 6. 

Pupils are not expected to cover each aspect for every area of study.

Living things and their habitats

Pupils should study and raise questions about their local environment throughout the

They should observe life-cycle changes in a variety of living things, for example,
plants in the vegetable garden or flower border, and animals in the local environment.

They should find out about the work of naturalists and animal behaviourists, for example, David Attenborough and Jane Goodall.

Pupils should find out about different types of reproduction, including sexual and asexual reproduction in plants, and sexual reproduction in animals.

Pupils might work scientifically by: observing and comparing the life cycles of plants and
animals in their local environment with other plants and animals around the world (in the rainforest, in the oceans, in desert areas and in prehistoric times), asking pertinent
questions and suggesting reasons for similarities and differences. 

They might try to grow new plants from different parts of the parent plant, for example, seeds, stem and root cuttings, tubers, bulbs. 

They might observe changes in an animal over a period of time (for example, by hatching and rearing chicks), comparing how different animals reproduce and grow.

Animals, including humans

Pupils should draw a timeline to indicate stages in the growth and development of

They should learn about the changes experienced in puberty.

Pupils could work scientifically by researching the gestation periods of other animals and
comparing them with humans; by finding out and recording the length and mass of a
baby as it grows.

Properties and changes of materials

Pupils should build a more systematic understanding of materials by exploring and
comparing the properties of a broad range of materials, including relating these to what
they learnt about magnetism in year 3 and about electricity in year 4. 

They should explore reversible changes, including, evaporating, filtering, sieving, melting and dissolving, recognising that melting and dissolving are different processes. 

Pupils should explore changes that are difficult to reverse, for example, burning, rusting and other reactions, for example, vinegar with bicarbonate of soda. They should find out about how chemists create new materials, for example, Spencer Silver, who invented the glue for sticky notes or Ruth Benerito, who invented wrinkle-free cotton.   

Note: Pupils are not required to make quantitative measurements about conductivity
and insulation at this stage. 

It is sufficient for them to observe that some conductors will
produce a brighter bulb in a circuit than others and that some materials will feel hotter
than others when a heat source is placed against them. Safety guidelines should be
followed when burning materials.

Pupils might work scientifically by: carrying out tests to answer questions, for example,
‘Which materials would be the most effective for making a warm jacket, for wrapping ice
cream to stop it melting, or for making blackout curtains?’ 

They might compare materials in order to make a switch in a circuit. 

They could observe and compare the changes that take place, for example, when burning different materials or baking bread or cakes. 

They might research and discuss how chemical changes have an impact on our lives, for
example, cooking, and discuss the creative use of new materials such as polymers,
super-sticky and super-thin materials.

Earth and space

Pupils should be introduced to a model of the Sun and Earth that enables them to
explain day and night. 

Pupils should learn that the Sun is a star at the centre of our solar system and that it has eight planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune (Pluto was reclassified as a ‘dwarf planet’ in 2006). 

They should understand that a moon is a celestial body that orbits a planet (Earth has one moon; Jupiter has four large moons and numerous smaller ones).

Note: Pupils should be warned that it is not safe to look directly at the Sun, even when
wearing dark glasses  

Pupils should find out about the way that ideas about the solar system have developed,
understanding how the geocentric model of the solar system gave way to the
heliocentric model by considering the work of scientists such as Ptolemy, Alhazen and

Pupils might work scientifically by: comparing the time of day at different places on the
Earth through internet links and direct communication; creating simple models of the
solar system; constructing simple shadow clocks and sundials, calibrated to show
midday and the start and end of the school day; finding out why some people think that
structures such as Stonehenge might have been used as astronomical clocks.


Pupils should explore falling objects and raise questions about the effects of air
resistance. They should explore the effects of air resistance by observing how different
objects such as parachutes and sycamore seeds fall. 

They should experience forces that make things begin to move, get faster or slow down. 

Pupils should explore the effects of friction on movement and find out how it slows or stops moving objects, for example, by observing the effects of a brake on a bicycle wheel. 

Pupils should explore the effects of levers, pulleys and simple machines on movement. 

Pupils might find out how scientists, for example, Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton helped to develop the theory of gravitation.

Pupils might work scientifically by: exploring falling paper cones or cup-cake cases, and
designing and making a variety of parachutes and carrying out fair tests to determine
which designs are the most effective. 

They might explore resistance in water by making and testing boats of different shapes. 

They might design and make products that use levers, pulleys, gears and/or springs and explore their effects.

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