GCSE Triple science - Is this how it is now??

(48 Posts)
bethnella Sat 26-Apr-14 10:39:02

I posted this in secondary education but thought I might get a better, professional view here!

I had a progress meeting with dd's tutor yesterday, who happens to be head of science. He has explained that next year, Y9, they will start GCSE triple science by spending 1 year doing biology only and sitting the exam! Then in Y10 do Physics for a year, followed by an exam and then Chemistry in Y11!! Is this normal?? I find it hard to understand why? Surely A level biology will be far more difficult if you haven't studied it since Y9!!! Any input would be great!

I've never come across that (but I'm an English teacher). It sounds pretty bonkers to me.

bethnella Sat 26-Apr-14 10:51:17

Thank you - That is what I thought! I'm not really sure what I can do about it. A level Biology is a must for dd at the moment for her plan right now...it will be difficult if she hasn't studied it since Y9!

Martorana Sat 26-Apr-14 10:53:54

Did you get anything in writing? Or is there anything on the school website? That certainly sounds a bit odd to me..........could you (sorry) possibly have misunderstood?

bethnella Sat 26-Apr-14 10:58:06

I had that conversation last night, but the teacher explained that 3 exams per year would be better then 9 all at the end!!! I can't see that that is how they are doing it now, so it must be a new thing they are introducing for next year! Maybe doing double science would be better???

addictedtosugar Sat 26-Apr-14 11:14:07

Don't do double science if Bio A'level is on the plans, if you possibly can.
The difference in background between those of us who had done separate science, and the girl who joined us having done double science was amazing (many many moons ago)

While I disagree with what the school is doing, if that is what is going to happen, I think you might be best keeping up the Biology at home. Can you find some fun things to get her to do to keep her brain working in the right areas - the science museum may well have something. I had some crossword / puzzle books for Chem, phys and Bio.

BearPear Sat 26-Apr-14 11:22:44

My DS did this in school as they didn't offer individual sciences. It was "sold" to us as having the same value as 3 GCSEs. In reality it is no such thing, not recognised as 3 individual passes at all (no individual certificates, only 1 pass recorded in stats, not 3). The school argued that they couldn't offer individual sciences as not enough interest/teaching staff. This affected his choices at A-level and subsequently his Uni opportunities. Many children left to go to a different 6th form due to lack of sciences at his school.

bethnella Sat 26-Apr-14 11:35:47

Sorry BearPear - did you mean he did one science per year, or double science?

BearPear Sat 26-Apr-14 13:07:35

He did all 3 over the 2year GCSE period (he's 21 so we are talking 5+ years ago). He did coursework and a final exam with a "pass" at the end and a certificate for "GCSE Science". Not at all what we expected or how the school had sold it to us.

SueDNim Sat 26-Apr-14 13:15:20

If they have to take 9 exams, 3 per science, there is no reason for them not to take 1 of each science every year. I would have thought that was more common.

bethnella Sat 26-Apr-14 13:29:06

Now that makes a lot more sense and I have a feeling that is how it currently stands. I don't know if changes brought in by Gove has meant they can only sit the exam at the end of the course, rather then doing it in chunks. Maybe the school is worried about the outcomes if all three sciences are taken in one go at the end of three years. It does seem unfair if it is looked on less favourably by unis and makes A level study even trickier!

hench Sat 26-Apr-14 13:51:02

There is an alternative route that still spreads the exams which is to do core science in year 9 (this covers a third of the syllabus for physics, chemistry and biology GCSEs, but is a separate GCSE in its own right so can be sat in year 9 as terminal exams), then additional science in year 10 (which is the middle third of the syllabus in each subject and again is a GCSE in its own right) and then further additional science GCSE (the final third of the separate subject courses) in year 11. Children doing this will get 3 GCSEs and certificates for each.

It has the advantage that children study all three subjects each year, with the topics covered getting progressively harder. The disadvantage is that while everyone has heard of physics chemistry and biology GCSEs and knows what is ment by them, having core science, additional science and further additional science GCSEs although it covers exactly the same material and on many boards uses exactly the same exam papers is more likely to confuse future employers who may mistake them for an easier option which is probably why the school hasn't gone for it.

Although doing it one subject per year does initially sound fairly mad, I reckon spreading the exams and just focussing on one subject at a time will have benefits too and counteract the madness to an extent. Getting a 'bridging the gap' guide or suchlike to read through in the summer before sixth form should be enough to get your dd back in the right mindset for starting A level biology as a lot of the science skills are transferable between the disciplines so having done chemistry and physics more recently will be helpful.

The only alternative is to sit all the exams at the end of year 11, which may be to the detriment of all her other subjects that will be sat then.

hench Sat 26-Apr-14 13:53:11

yes, Gove has decreed that all exams for any given GCSE have to be sat at the end of the course. It's meant virtually all schools have had to change the way they teach separate sciences.

OddBoots Sat 26-Apr-14 14:02:37

My ds is in Y10 and I don't know what's on offer to the Y9 but he is doing triple. They have studied half a term of only biology (B1-B3) then half a term of only Chemistry (C1-C3) then from Christmas have only done physics and will be taking the three physics exams this year (P1-P3, P4-P6 and P7). After those exams they will be going back to both biology and chemistry and will take the exams for those at the end of next year.

I can understand why they are doing it as 9 science exams at the end of Y11 seems a lot but like you I am worried about a gap so I've asked my ds's maths tutor to do some physics with him next year as ds wants to do physics at A Level. That's not an answer for everyone, we're just lucky that we can (just about) afford a private tutor.

bethnella Sat 26-Apr-14 14:26:31

It just seems unfair to parents and kids that are not in a position to keep up with which ever subject is done and dusted with first. I can see the positives of not having 9 exams on top of all of the other exams, but maybe sitting an exam at 16 would make a difference to the grade as opposed to sitting it at 13 or 14.

bethnella Sat 26-Apr-14 14:34:22

Hench - after reading and re-reading your post, it does make a bit more sense and maybe it could work to their advantage in the long run. My summer after GCSE's was spent working a fun job in covent garden earning a bit of extra cash and enjoying free time with friends!!! Poor dd might find hers studying biology! Just seems a bit stressful and unfair!

hench Sat 26-Apr-14 14:34:54

A levels are such a big step up from GCSEs anyway, I don't reckon the gap will make very much difference. In terms of being disadvantaged by sitting them early, if your child is the sort that just goes and sits the exams without much preparation/revision it will make a huge difference (sadly a lot of children are like this), but if they are going to take the exams seriously and really revise hard for them then the fact they are sitting the early ones at a time they aren't sitting any other exams the extra time and effort they can put into them will counteract the lack of maturity (moreso in year 10 than in year 9).

hench Sat 26-Apr-14 14:43:06

It's not really fair bethnella I agree and education does seem a lot less carefree now than it used to be sadly. But it is doable and may even suit some children better than doing all in year 11, I reckon all you can do is to be positive with your dd and support her as best you can. I have to say I prefered the old modular system though.

PartyConfused Sat 26-Apr-14 15:00:37

Our school has the triple science pupils take Biology at the end of yr 10 (start teaching half way through yr9) and chem and physics at end of yr11.

I would be a bit concerned about taking a gcse in yr9. We did try this one year and the results were definitely affected which is why we changed it. The reason Biology is usually taken first is these results tend to be a little better (so in theory pupils find it a little easier).

Tbh, we have been a bit uneasy about taking Biology early for exactly the reason you state. We have a very high number of pupils going on to sit Alevels in Science.

The pathway the hench mentions is new I think? I've just gone back after maternity and it has only recently been bought to my attention
I will definitely be recommending it for our current yr9s. It is probably something that hasn't been widely publicised (I know a lot of schools have been surprised that we have beenbtaking core Sci and Bio in yr10 and didn't realise this was possible). Maybe, if you think it's worth bringing it up, discussing this new patgway with the HOD. It certainly makes sense and gives schools a lot more felxibility.

bethnella Sat 26-Apr-14 15:17:04

Well, I have had a lot of food for thought here today and I will have a 'chat' when I can. I am hoping the school are planning on filling parents in on what their plans for GCSE's are. The current Y8's are facing so many changes...they literally are guinea pigs!

SueDNim Sat 26-Apr-14 15:20:52

Does the school have a sixth form? I don't think biology specialists would be very happy with that set up.

bethnella Sat 26-Apr-14 15:22:30

A brand new one! I'm not sure what they are thinking, unless they plan to have something in place to help students!

WhereTheWildlingsAre Sat 26-Apr-14 15:29:02

I teach science and we decided against the model your school has adopted in favour of sitting all 9 exams in one go. We shall see how this goes for the first time this summer.

However, the students seem to be handling it ok at the moment, especially as AQA have chosen to put some of the exams together so that it will feel more like 6 exams only.

The model your school has chosen would massively disadvantage Biology, both in terms of the grades the students get (will they be emotionally ready to sit GCSE exams in year 9?) and the A level take up.

bethnella Sat 26-Apr-14 15:31:59

This is not the system they are currently using, it will begin in September.

WhereTheWildlingsAre Sat 26-Apr-14 15:34:32

Sorry, yes I did realise that this. By 'has adopted' I meant that, since timetables are being written for September now, this model has already been adopted in your school even if it doesn't start yet. That way they who can teach which classes and when.

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