C1. Are triple science GCSEs (i.e. separate physics, chemistry and biology) available for all students? What proportion of students take them?
Why this is important
- Allowing students the option to study each science subject separately gives them the opportunity to study the subjects in greater depth than with single and additional science.
- There is a strong correlation between taking triple science at GCSE and studying science at A level. However, it is important to recognise that science and additional science can be an appropriate preparation for A level.
- 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 can be beneficial to offer triple science to weaker students, even if they won’t achieve the highest grades.
- Learning physics, chemistry and biology as separate subjects makes clear the separate identity of each – important when students come to make A level choices.
Students at state schools must study all of biology, physics and chemistry up until the end of Key Stage 4, although there are different options for doing this. Students can either study biology, chemistry and physics or a combination of science, additional science and further additional science.
Ideas for improvement
- School leaders will undoubtedly have considered the advantages and disadvantages of offering triple science, but for more advice, the DfE-funded Triple Science Support Programme aims to provide information and support for schools developing and delivering triple science.
- For more information on gender differences in the uptake of science and maths see C4.
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 double award. The Ofsted report from December 2013, ‘Maintaining Curiosity’, stated that one way to improve achievement in science is to allow more time for triple science, for example, by starting it in year nine.
Other questions in Choices
- C2. (For schools with post-16 provision) 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?
- C3. What proportion of students chooses to continue each of the sciences (physics, chemistry and biology) and maths at A level?
- C4. What proportion of students choosing each of physics, chemistry, biology and maths A levels are female?
- C5. What proportion of students choosing A level science and maths qualify for the pupil premium? How does this compare with all pupils?
- C6. (For schools with post-16 provision) What proportion of A level students chooses to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at university?
- C7. 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?
- C8. What opportunities do students have to find out about further and higher education (A levels and university courses) or careers that they could follow in STEM?