STUDENTS are dropping separate science GCSEs to ease the “burden of assessment” caused by end-of-course testing, an exam board head has said.
All three sciences recorded double-digit percentage declines this year, with biology entries down by almost a fifth (18.6 per cent), and chemistry and physics faring little better, at 16.8 per cent and 14.6 per cent respectively, said AQA chief executive Andrew Hall.
It is the first time the subjects have recorded a fall in ten years. Mr Hall said students studying the three disciplines separately were now having to do 12 exams and assessments at the end of the course because of the change from a modular system to one set of final exams, as ordered by the Government. Instead, they’re increasingly opting for the Additional Science and new Further Additional Science courses, which spread fewer exams over the two-year course.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) called the figures for separate sciences “deeply disappointing” and warned they were potentially “catastrophic for the long-term health of the economy”.
Mr Hall told a Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) briefing: “These qualifications were designed to be taken in a modular way, they are now having to be taken all in final exams. So if you are doing three sciences separately you end up with nine exams and three controlled assessments. That is a significant load of assessment.
“We think 20,000 to 24,000 have moved away from doing that and have decided to take the alternative route - of science, additional science and further additional science.”
He added: “The good news is that as much science is being studied in the UK as before, which I think is a really important message to take back - it would be terribly wrong to interpret the fall in single sciences as a reduction in the amount of science being studied by people in the UK.”
But Katja Hall, deputy director general of the CBI, said: “Entries into single sciences have fallen off a cliff-edge and that is deeply disappointing as they are fundamental to the UK developing a highly-skilled workforce that can compete globally.
“This trend could be catastrophic for the long-term health of the economy if it continues, so we must get more students into school laboratories and studying separate sciences.”
This autumn sees the return of Bradford Science Festival, introducing children to the wonders of science and inspiring them to take it further at school. Workshops, lectures, interactive games, film screenings will be held at venues across the city.
Fun events include ‘Why Toast Always Lands Butter Side Down’ workshops, examining the ‘whatever can go wrong will go wrong’ laws in science, and Dr Death and the Medi-Evil Medicine Show, described as a ‘historically, scientifically accurate panto for children and other childish people’.
The festival - supported by Bradford Council and organisations including the University of Bradford, Bradford College, the Telegraph & Argus and the National Media Museum - builds on previous successes since the annual science festival began in 2011.
Michael Jameson, Bradford Council’s strategic director of Children’s Services, says the festival has potential to “ignite the imagination of children, raise aspirations and increase academic attainment and achievement”.
He added: “My ambition is that young people leaving school in Bradford have the necessary skills, qualifications and attributes to compete with the very best across the global economy, not just across Yorkshire. To do this we need to create a platform for all our young people, teachers and parents to have access to some of the most stimulating educational experiences possible. “The Bradford Science Festival is a fantastic example of how key partners are enriching the curriculum offer. The organisers have brokered some fantastic contributions from Higher Education, the world of science and industry.
“Their ambition is not simply to be a regional hub for STEM, education, training and innovation but to become the gold standard nationally.”
Other events include the Wonderstruck Ultimate Forces Show, offering “everything you ever wanted to know about forces, rockets and pressure all in one convenient show”. Combining demonstrations with combustion-themed shows, it promises a “spectacular hour of blasts, high speed projectiles and the occasional excellent science joke”. Bradford Science Festival runs from October 15 - 17. Visit bradfordsciencefestival.co.uk