Q1. Are triple science GCSEs (i.e. separate biology, chemistry and physics) offered to all students? What proportion of students take them?
Why this is important
- Studying each science subject seperately offers greater depth. For example, students studying triple science are significantly more likely to do advanced practical work such as designing and carrying out their own experiment than those studying double science – developing skills that universities and employers value.
- Offering triple science at GCSE can be a way of attracting specialist science teachers to apply for jobs at your school, and of retaining them – it signals the importance your school attaches to the subject, and by extension, its teachers.
- It can be beneficial to offer triple science to students who may not be predicted to attain the highest grades because of the value colleges, universities and employers place on these subjects.
- While there is a strong correlation between taking triple science at GCSE and studying science subjects at A level, double science can also be an appropriate preparation for A level.
Students at state schools must study biology, chemistry and physics until the end of Key Stage 4, although there are different options for doing this. Students can either study:
- biology, chemistry and physics separately, or
- double science (previously science and additional science)
Single science is no longer available.
The Department for Education publishes data showing the percentage of students in England at state-funded schools who study science at Key Stage 4, and the different combinations they take.
- In 2016, 23.9% of students in England were studying triple science in Year 10.
- Data from the Open Public Services Network show 90% of schools in England entered at least one pupil into Triple Science.
- A 2016 survey of 14 to 18 year olds found 16% said they were or had been at a school that offered triple science, but they were unable to study it even thuogh they had wanted to. Barriers included a lack of confidence, not being in the right set, not achieving the right grades, and being dissuaded by teachers.
Ideas for improvement
- The DfE-funded Triple Science Support Programme provides information and support for schools developing and delivering triple science, and will help school leaders weigh the advantages and disadvantages of offering triple science.
- It is important to recognise that triple science has more content than double award combined science, and therefore needs more time to teach. It can be counterproductive to try to squeeze triple science into the same amount of time as a double award. As Ofsted’s Maintaining Curiosity report states, a way to improve achievement in science is to ensure more time for triple science in the school timetable.
- Establish how many students in your school would like to take triple science but cannot, probe why this is the case, and ask what your school can do to address this where appropriate
Other questions in Choices
- Q3. Are all three major sciences available for study at A and AS level? Is further maths available at AS and A level as well as maths?
- Q4. What proportion of students chooses to continue each of the sciences (physics, chemistry and biology) and maths at A level?
- Q5. Which students choose to study each of biology, chemistry, maths and physics?
- Q6. What proportion of A level students chooses to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at university?
- Q2. Are students able to easily access post-16 vocational courses in the local area for STEM? What proportion of students chooses to go on to vocational study or an apprenticeship in a scientific or technical field?