Science GCSE - confused!

(76 Posts)
lexie01 Sat 23-Feb-13 07:20:16

I have another thread running about EBacc and as part of this I have been looking at a number of senior school websites in my area and specifically their GCSE results.

On a complete tangent I noticed quite a difference between the type of GCSE's taken at state and independent schools. Specifically in the Science subjects. I looked at 3 state comps and a very small number (2 for example at one very good school) took separate science GCSE's (ie biology/chemistry & physics) and most took a single science exam (which I assume is a combination of all 3?). In the independent schools however this was reversed and most of the children seemed to take the individual science subjects. I know that this Is probably a bit of a generalisation as I only looked at about 8 schools within my area but there was an obvious difference.

Does anyone know the reason For this? My dd1 is in yr5 so we are just starting to look at senior schools so all this is quite new to me. Thanks

nailak Sat 23-Feb-13 23:43:21

I went to a grammar school, we took double sciences, it did not make it difficult for anyone to study at a higher level. Many became drs and so on.

Knowsabitabouteducation Sat 23-Feb-13 23:58:15

Sounds like you don't want to get a grip

Roisin Sun 24-Feb-13 07:37:55

The "combined" or "Dual" and "triple" are usually the ways schools refer to it; because they need an simple way to talk to the students. ie in an assembly there might be an announcement "There's a mock exam this afternoon, but only for triple science students."

It's also confusing because of the way it is taught. In many (most?) Schools triple science will be taught by three different teachers (in three different labs) who will hopefully be subject-specialists. But - particularly because of the dearth of physicists in schools - students not doing triple science, in many schools are taught by just one single teacher for all three sciences. And some do it in blocks, some do a couple of lessons of each science each week.

I think there's clear grounds for confusion.

Knowsabitabouteducation Sun 24-Feb-13 07:52:14

I can understand some school doing blocks (which I interpret to be a carousel) under the old modular system, but surely they don't this with a linear qualification??

Roisin Sun 24-Feb-13 08:54:16

It can be an effective way of teaching.
ds1 has done a completely bizarre course in science:

yr10:
Autumn Term - 6 lessons per week of C1
Spring Term - 6 lessons per week of B1
Summer Term - 6 lessons per week of P1
But simultaneously
Sep - Mar - 3 lessons per week of C3
Apr - July - 3 lessons per week of B3

yr11:
Right through - 2 lessons per week of each of C2, B2 and P2.
Sep - Feb - 3 lessons per week of P3.

It seems completely bonkers to me, but they seem to be covering the syllabus.
And he's certainly getting astonishingly high marks.
Obviously the oness is then on the students to do efficient revision, particularly for the subjects (like C3 for him) that he studied ages ago.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Sun 24-Feb-13 11:41:01

Personally speaking, as a science teacher for twenty years, I have noticed the two key areas that cause confusion for parents are

1. Its been subject to many changes since the GCSE exams were introduced and particularly in the last twenty years. As each government has tried to 'fix' the problems of each preceding course.

2. Parents are unfamiliar with the course in its present form because it is not what they recognise from their own education.

It will be interesting to see how going to linear system will impact on the current confusion felt by many.

BackforGood Sun 24-Feb-13 17:06:56

Really knows hmm
If I didn't want to understand it, I wouldn't be loitering around the education threads as much as I do, nor would I be going to the options evening this week, not parents evening the week after that, nor any of the Parents Forums I attend at my dcs' schools, I wouldn't have thought.
I can't see how you make the jump from someone not being clear about something, to somone not wanting too understand confused.
Thanks Roisin, Ship, and others who've tried to help. smile

Knowsabitabouteducation Sun 24-Feb-13 18:18:09

You may not have perceived me to help, but I have not added to any confusion by referring to general or combined science and I have laid out how qualifications are obtained in a coherent manner.

Have I wasted air space on you? It actually took me quite a while to type everything out. Gutted.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Sun 24-Feb-13 18:30:29

Maybe you are unaware that you appear to have framed your 'help' in condescension and have come across as really quite rude in some posts.

In which case, I hope me pointing this out will not have been wasted air space either smile

Marni23 Sun 24-Feb-13 18:31:22

Nice Knows.

I suspect the confusion arises (whether it's the terminology you use or not) because science qualifications are referred to as 'single', 'double' or 'triple' when in fact all 3 cover all 3 sciences. But to different levels. Which is completely different to when most of us were at school.

If you can't see where that that's confusing...

Knowsabitabouteducation Sun 24-Feb-13 20:58:41

Don't worry. Stick with those who are matey. Go with the lowest common denominator. It's the fashion within the maintained sector.

If you really want to understand the exam system, then ask clearly. If you want to whinge, then again make this clear. There are plenty of people to address both needs.

Allow me to please apologise for and distance myself from my colleagues who relish indulging in a perceived complexity of and an anachronistic view of science education.

I am personally shocked that there are science teachers who come here to perpetuate notions of complexity. I don't really understand their motivations. I can somewhat understand parents who relay what they have been told.

I don't really understand why my views are not supportive of those mumsnetters who start threads seeking the kind of views I offer. I don't really understand why forthright views are inferior to empathetic ones, but there you go. Let the buyer beware. Let's hope that there is lots of conjutating off-board.

Abra1d Sun 24-Feb-13 21:03:18

Mine both do IGCSE double science award. Both have been told this is fine for going on to do as many science A levels as they want. My daughter might well be going to try for vet./medical school.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 24-Feb-13 21:08:17

I'm with knowsabitabouteducation (and I'm not always!!). Using outdated vocabulary doesn't help. If you do EdExcel or AQA, the simple 3 x 3 grid helps parents to understand IME.

If you do 21st Century Science, then it's admittedly slightly more complex. And you should change wink

lemonmajestic Mon 25-Feb-13 15:05:06

So long as there is the option of doing Triple Science should your child have the ability/desire to choose this option, then I don't really think that the pupil numbers taking Triple Science or Double award is a problem. It is the sort of question that you could ask about at school Open evenings for example.
I would also be wary about choosing a school based on which exam board the students follow as there are no guarantees that this will still be the case by the time your child takes their GCSE. For example, if a new Head of Science is appointed and they may change the Science teaching to fit their "favourite" exam board and specification.

BackforGood Mon 25-Feb-13 15:35:56

YOu need to keep in mind, of course, that things change so often in education, the repsonse you got when looking round the school when your child was in Yr5 or 6, will not still hold when your child is in Yr9 and taking their options, let alone in Yr11. They can only answer to 'what they are doing now' - no-one can predict what will be happening in 3,4,5,6 years time.

glaurung Tue 26-Feb-13 00:58:41

knows you have over simplified. For a start not all children take 2 or 3 GCSEs, they may only do one or none if they go the BTEC route, and you haven't explained how the applied science GCSE fits in either.

The term 'double science' is used in common parlance by parents, teachers and schools to mean two GCSEs in mixed sciences (usually core and additional), but its original meaning is when the 2 GCSEs are a single syllabus that is double the workload of a single GCSE and results in a single grade usually expressed twice (ie AA or CC) to emphasise it is worth double the usual GCSE. Most of these true 'double award GCSEs' no longer exist, but at least one is still about (in the applied form) so presunmably some children still take it. Arguably as the term is now in common use meaning something else one needs to explain carefully what is actually meant.

It is definitely complex and confusing for the non expert.

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 26-Feb-13 06:45:23

I never claimed to be talking about anything other than current GCSEs. Btecs are not GCSEs.

TheFallenMadonna Tue 26-Feb-13 07:21:32

I think the fact that some teachers still use redundant terminology is one of the biggest problems!

glaurung Tue 26-Feb-13 11:44:47

(1) it's not redundant terminology - double award science still exists (albeit rare)

(2) it's a term that's never been used correctly even when true double award was more commonplace - it's time to accept that language changes and embrace the new meaning or you end up looking like those purists who celebrated the end of the millenium at the end of 2001 - technically correct but totally out of step with majority opinion.

knows, you can't ignore BTECS unfortunately since some children do both and many others are given the choice.

Tansie Tue 26-Feb-13 12:48:47

At DS's school, they give the same amount of lesson-time to science in Y10 and 11 whether you're studying for the 2 GCSEs or the 3. But here in Y9, he has to tick a box requesting that he be considered for the 3 GCSEs route or not as, once on the course/s, they're not interchangeable.

He will request triple; at his school (comp) a third of DC do triple and as he's in the top 1/3 of the cohort (I believe!!), that's what he'll do- esp considering that he won't be 'giving up' anything to do it- but will just have to work harder to learn more!

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 26-Feb-13 18:06:04

I can ignore BTEC when the thread is about GCSE.

BackforGood Tue 26-Feb-13 18:28:23

For the same qualification (a GCSE, in each of Biology, Chemistry and Physics) my ds's school call it "triple science", (suggesting they do all 3) but my dd's school call it "single science" (presumably because they do each subject separate from the others) grin

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 26-Feb-13 18:42:37

My DDs' school doesn't refer to Science at all. They call it iGCSE Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

But then they have separately timetabled Biology, Chemistry and Physics lessons all the way from Year 7.

glaurung Tue 26-Feb-13 19:24:28

But you ignored applied science too which is definitely a GCSE. Personally, I think a lot of the confusion surrounding science (which this thread has gravitated towards) is down to the plethora of options as well as the differnt pathways through those options, and the fact that private schools generally don't do BTECs/applied science when state schools are more likely to have them as an option is one part of the reason for the different emphasis between the two sectors.

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 26-Feb-13 23:00:55

As TFM said, you have to stay focussed on current qualifications. That is the only thing that is relevant to DCs in they system now.

BTECs might have added to the confusion in recent years, but, afaik, they have also been simplified in that they are 1:1 GCSE equivalent and follow the same POS.

Many schools have built on and relished confusion, and really milked BTECs to enhance their headline statistics.

We have a much more simplified and transparent system now.

As for describing current systems to parents, I don't see any mileage in wrapping them in transient terms from 6 - 20 years ago.

Parents of my age who have children going through GCSEs are much older than the advent of the NC and 'double science', so it doesn't mean a lot to use those terms (other than to baffle us). It is really much better to speak in terms of the system that is in use today. There is no need to speak in terms of something that was quite fleeting. There is no need to compare - just speak in absolutes.

The majority of parents of 15 year olds will be in their 40s and have no need of a history lesson tracking through the various changes in science examinations. They just need to know what their LOs will be doing.

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