A 5-year curriculum map to build understanding

How are your curriculum topics organised? Like the specification? Based on an old scheme? If so, our big ideas approach could help you build stronger student over 5 years.

Here’s how it works. We have identified 14 fundamental ideas that underly all the science content in Key Stage 3 (11-14) and GCSE Combined Science (14-16). These are principles, models, laws and theories that explain lots of phenomena. They’re the things we really want students to understand,

For instance, forces has two distinct big ideas which if you understand them, can help you apply knowledge and answer the most difficult exam questions.


  • Forces predict motion: knowing the forces, and Newton’s laws, you can work out how an object moves
  • Forces act through fields

For all the big ideas, we are creating a progression of understanding, through a number of topics spread out over the 5 years, aiming at GCSE Combined Science.

For example, this force big idea has 3 topics. Each one builds on the understanding of the one before – revising it – and going into more depth.

Big idea understanding is at the heart of each topic. Here’s the one for Contact forces – the year 7 topic. The description focusses on the key concepts that students need to understand, and how they are connected.

This understanding is then elaborated into a series of objectives of increasing demand, for students to know, apply, and analyse. You can see how what these topic objectives look like in the sample topic grids.

The 5-year curriculum map

Here is the complete 5-year curriculum map of 42 big idea topics covers all the important content at Key Stage 3 and GCSE Combined Science (click to see the bigger version).



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  • Fiona McOwan says:

    Curriculum Map

    Just wondering if the ENGAGE team will be producing a similar map for the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence? We have recently had Science Benchmarks published which give more detail to Level 3 and Level 4 Experiences and Outcomes.

  • Tariq Ahmed says:

    The Kiss

    Many years ago my friend and I went to Auguste Rodin exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. In one room, we saw “The Kiss”, in the next, “The Thinker”. We agreed, give the man a chisel, a hammer, a big rock of marble and in 50 years he would be a genius! I kept returning to have a look at Rodin’s work, until I discovered “The Gate of Hell”. I found that the big statues that had so impressed me were concept pieces, made originally out of clay, 27.5 inches tall. The big, impressive statues were the factory pieces! Same is true with this Five Year Curriculum. I have followed Tony Sherborne’s work since mid 1980s. He has always been at it. It is a piece of genius art. We need to make sure that it replaces ‘International Bacalaureate’ curriculum in science. You have MYP and Standard PD already there. AQA A-levels are a perfect fit to become PD-higher level. All that is needed is to market it. Take it to the large chains of private schools in Pakistan and India. Your books will replace the technicolor rubbish that is being printed in Malaysia to line up with Singapore Curriculum. By calling it ‘Mastery Science’ you have already stolen their clothes. Now let’s take their money too! Write to me and I will get your books and materials translated into Urdu. Once 180 million Pakistanies adopt it, 1000 million Indians will not be far behind. Do you need any more ideas? “Enough for now, me thinks!”