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GCSE options - 1 science

(42 Posts)
Jimjam68 Wed 23-Jan-19 07:52:21

DD1 is at a super selective independent. She is choosing her options at the moment and has 3 free choices after the compulsory subjects. She is an all rounder but passionate about and talented in art and drama, so wants to do both these subjects. She also wants to do two humanities to keep options open for A level (no idea what she wants to do at A level yet, but quite likely to do Art). The only way she can achieve this is to only do one science. The rules are that you have to do two sciences but school may flex that in exceptional circs. They don’t do double or triple sciences, but sit the sciences as separate subjects. My question is will she be disadvantaged when it comes to uni applications if she only has one science?

OP’s posts: |
physicskate Wed 23-Jan-19 08:24:45

Yes. It would be highly unusual. The only cases I've seen of this are severely underachieving pupils, or pupils with unusual circumstances, like changing schools in year 11.

I wouldn't advocate the 'triple only' route either for an individual science, but if that's what you're stuck with, choose two as a minimum. If nothing else, it allows your dd to change her mind at a more reasonable age (beyond 13/14).

cloudtree Wed 23-Jan-19 08:26:11

Having been in a very similar position with DS1 I would say don't do drama and art. They both involve a significant time commitment.

So drop one of those to do two sciences.

cloudtree Wed 23-Jan-19 08:26:37

DS1 also at a selective independent

LoniceraJaponica Wed 23-Jan-19 08:44:05

"My question is will she be disadvantaged when it comes to uni applications if she only has one science?"

Possibly. I don't understand why some private schools don't offer double/triple science. Only taking one science doesn't show that the student has benefitted from a rounded education, and as physicskate has pointed out it is usually only under achieveing students who do this in state schools.

I think drama or art, and using one free option for another science is a better option. A problem with drama is group work, and if your daughter is in a lazy group it will bring her marks down. This happened with DD when she took Citizenship GCSE as the coursework was group work, and DD ended up doing nearly all of the work.

I also agree with the heavy time commitment of doing both. If she wants to doart A level then it is a no brainer to take it at GCSE.

Jimjam68 Wed 23-Jan-19 09:13:15

I take everyone’s point but if she ends up 9 GCSEs with grades of 7 and above (as is likely) she will clearly not be a low achieving student?

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cloudtree Wed 23-Jan-19 09:21:38

No but she'll have an odd combination of subjects.

I really would urge her to think twice about drama and art. DS1 is staying behind at school for at least three nights every week doing drama stuff. He is beginning to wish he hadn't chosen it.

Anyway - your DD goes to a super selective independent. There will be lots of support and advice available. Get her to go and talk to the careers tutor and her form tutor about it.

TeenTimesTwo Wed 23-Jan-19 09:24:58

I am massively shocked that a 'super selective independent' doesn't insist on full triple science for all students.

In the early 80s my academic boarding school made us choose between Physics&Chemistry OR Biology, and I feel I was disadvantaged compared with my DC today doing combined science.

The G in GCSE stands for General. How can doing only 1 strand of science for GCSE set up a young person to understand issues in this increasingly technological/science based world? (Just consider climate change, genetic modification, vaccination scares etc)

That aside OP, if you must pick one science only, go for Chemistry as it is the unifier between the sciences. You will keep more options open for A levels that way.

Also, check whether she can do Geography or History A level without the GCSE. By dropping one she may well not be closing the options down, whereas dropping 2 sciences …

I'd drop the drama, keep it as a hobby, and get the good quality education you are paying for by doing more science!

Jimjam68 Wed 23-Jan-19 09:46:42

The school is quite a progressive thinker and say that viewing creatives as non academic is an outdated view and one that universities are coming round to. Of course everyone generally does do at least two sciences and a big proportion of the year will do 3, as the school is big on STEM subjects. I was initially attracted to the school precisely because they didn't make you do 3 sciences (I only did one many many years ago, and as I wasn't going down the science route it has made not one jot of difference to my life or my subsequent academic success or my career). But everyone's concerns around it are what also concerns me. I have a call with the head of academics scheduled later in the week so I will take their advise also.

OP’s posts: |
TeenTimesTwo Wed 23-Jan-19 10:11:54

I think that if you're not fussed that she gets more science knowledge, and she won't want to pursue anything scientific later, then I don't suppose universities will mind either.

But in that case pick Chemistry.

LoniceraJaponica Wed 23-Jan-19 10:29:04

“I was initially attracted to the school precisely because they didn't make you do 3 sciences”

TBH that would put me off a school, especially if it is a selective school and I was paying for my child’s education. I agree with TeenTimesTwo that it is shocking that a selective school allows students to take only one science subject. I have O levels in subjects that I don’t use now, but I remember going for my first job interview, and the interviewer being impressed that I had O levels in a broad range of subjects (yes, I am that old grin)

Also, I believe that you can take history A level without doing the subject at GCSE. It isn’t like science or maths subjects where you need the building blocks in place first.

Jimjam68 Wed 23-Jan-19 15:38:39

I think that you are saying science is more important than other subjects. Surely there is breadth of education with English, maths, a MFL, two humanities, a science and art and drama. Forcing children across the board to study for difficult exams in 3 subjects (out of 9 in our case) that they potentially dislike/aren’t good at serves no-one well. I understand that universities will not care that she has one science, assuming she of course doesn’t do science at A level. I don’t believe our school would advise us badly in this respect. I agree it’s an unusual approach though.

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MIdgebabe Wed 23-Jan-19 15:47:43

Does the school not offer good drama opport7nities and training outside of the gcse curriculum? From what i recall Gcse drama isn’t needed to study drama at higher levels.

crazycrofter Wed 23-Jan-19 15:51:14

My daughter’s superselective independent takes the same approach as does the boys school next door - these are top 50 (at least) schools with a track record of Oxbridge entrance etc. My sister works in a similar school in a northern city and they also take this approach.

STEM subjects have become idolised in the state sector in the last few years to the detriment of humanities, literature, languages and classics. I actually think it’s terrible that kids don’t have to study both history and geography to 16!

My dd dropped Physics so that she could take History, Geography, RS and Latin. She loves these subjects, they’re all possible A Level choices and they all tell you a lot about the world. They do 10 subjects though so she didn’t need to drop down to 1 Science. I’m not sure how I’d have felt about that but ultimately, she’s never going to do sciences for A Level.

suziesuzz Wed 23-Jan-19 15:58:41

What about doing LAMDA outside of school instead of GCSE drama? IIRC there's one level that's equivalent to GCSE?

TeenTimesTwo Wed 23-Jan-19 16:11:59

Well, yes I am saying that science is more important.

I think it is more important than e.g. Art and Drama.

I think an understanding of core science is important in the modern age, which is why I am in favour of studying some of all 3 rather than lots of one but none of the other.
(But I come from a family that is strong in science so I would think that. Though both my DDs will have ended up doing Drama for GCSE)

I think if your DD wasn't at a super selective I would be less surprised. Only 9 GCSEs and permitting a single science isn't what I would expect from a fee paying super selective.

However, if applying to university for non science I don't think it will matter. And if you don't value science and chose the school based on that, then that's your choice. (I would still say pick Chemistry in that case).

CuckooCuckooClock Wed 23-Jan-19 16:14:18

I think choosing to stop studying 2 sciences at 13 is a mistake. But I'm quite narrow minded about this and I cannot understand why anyone would not be interested in science! Especially to the extent that at 13 you could decide to close the door on so many careers.
What are the compulsory subjects?

MaisyPops Wed 23-Jan-19 17:25:18

I'm with most posters here in the view that 1 science is highly unusual and could disadvantage a student in a way that only having drama or art wouldn't.

I'm also surprised that a super selective is going down that route with the curriculum too.

I'm no scientist but think a broad understanding of basics is quite important and to narrow that much at 13/14 wouldn't seem sensible to me.

cantkeepawayforever Wed 23-Jan-19 18:50:42

AFAIR (though may be wrong so am entirely happy to be corrected), state schools aren't even allowed to do only 1 science - the single award science was dropped in the latest reforms, so the 2 options available are a double award for the 3 sciences as a 2-GCSE block, or 3 separate sciences. Why a genuinely selective independent would choose to go down a route not considered academic enough for state run comprehensives and secondary moderns, i'm not quite sure.

I'm genuinely surprised that a selective independent has such a limited offer. DD - standard state comp but highly able - is doing Art, a creative DT subject, 2 languages, a humanity, 2 English, Double Science, 1 Maths in school time and another in extra-curricular time. Things like dance, more languages etc are offered in extra-curricular time too, but as she has vocational-level dance exams anyway, she hasn't bothered with the GCSE. At her school the less able will tend to take 8 or 9 GCSEs / equivalents, but the vast majority will take 10: 5 core subjects, 5 options.

cantkeepawayforever Wed 23-Jan-19 19:05:21

(I do know an iGCSE Single science is available, and of course private schools can use it.)

Jimjam68 Wed 23-Jan-19 22:32:55

My understanding is that single science GCSEs (not just igcses) are accessible to anyone as long as their school offers it. I’m still in a quandary, if our very experienced forward thinking academic school allows it and says it’s not a disadvantage, why shouldn’t I believe them? I do think science is important but not necessarily so important that every single child in the country studies them all. From experience I know this makes little difference in the real world as long as you are sure sciences are not your thing. But I see I’m not going to convince anyone here, and really just need to convince myself at the end of the day! Thanks for your views all.

OP’s posts: |
User260486 Wed 23-Jan-19 22:44:11

I do think that it is sad that we are limiting our children's education (in the wider term) by asking them to stop learning the subjects that are so important for understanding the world they live in at such young age. Not continuing with history means that they have limited understanding what events shaped the current political situation, etc., geography- how can they take global warming seriously if they do not know what influences weather, etc.
Op, in your dd's case the ideal solution would be for the school to offer double science, which gives some foundation in all three sciences but is an easier course. I see you are saying that it is not an option, so I guess it is a hard choice to make. I do not have any personal experience but from what I hear from other parents both drama and art are extremely time consuming and it is unusual to do both, especially if the child had any activities outside school, that require time commitments.

CraftyGin Wed 23-Jan-19 23:05:11

When the NC and GCSEs started back 30 years ago, the expectation was that the majority of students would do “double science”. Those taking “single science (a combination of Biology, Chemistry and Physics)” were either low achievers, or those who were extremely high achievers in other parts of the curriculum .I don’t think there was such a thing as separate sciences at that time.

Traditionally, it was typical to do two sciences as part of a “broad and balanced curriculum”. This was the “right” amount of science. I did Physics and Chemistry and six other subjects in the early 80s, so Sciences were 25% of my certificate subjects.

Before the current reforms, it was typical to do two Science GCSEs, and most schools would have students sit one set in Y10 and the other in Y11. With the reformed GCSEs, that option does not exist. It’s either Combined Science (2 GCSEs) or Biology, Chemistry or Physics as separate subjects. The individual sciences have 50% more content over the equivalent strands in Combined Science.

While I firmly believe in Science being 20ish% of the curriculum, I think that extreme talent in the performing and expressive arts are a good justification to alter this balance.

A single science is feasible exam-wise, but it may cause difficulties in your school for timetabling or supervision.

For example, if your DD is just doing Biology, what is she timetabled for when her peers are doing Chemistry and Physics? Is she able to get quality teaching in her main subjects, or is she wallowing in the ICT suite doing “independent study”. Does she get any tuition for the Art and Drama teacher during these slots? Is dropping a science worth it?

AlexaShutUp Wed 23-Jan-19 23:25:29

I did just one science GCSE many years ago, not because I wasn't good at it (quite the contrary) but because I wanted to do other subjects instead. I really wanted to do chemistry but they wouldn't let me do that on its own so I did physics instead - really interesting to see chemistry being recommended above for those only doing one science!

I don't think the lack of science harmed my university applications in any way - I went on to Cambridge regardless. However, I have quite often felt regret over the years that I did not study more science, and if I had my choices again, I'd choose differently.

shouldwestayorshouldwego Wed 23-Jan-19 23:37:21

It was possible to do three individual science GCSEs when they came out in 80s <polishes exam certificates>.

Dd decided against drama due in part to the reliance on group work - if your group doesn't put the effort in then your marks will be pulled down. It is the sort of thing that can be picked up out of school or at university and years of effort might lead to nothing or a bit of larking around in footlights can catapult you to stardom. It also has a bit of a reputation as a dossy subject- I don't think it is but enough of the students looking for an easy option do to make the peer group one you don't want to rely on.

Also both Drama and Art seem to require a heavy workload of coursework. Dd is doing a creative subject but one which is more individually assessed so that she has more control as she is wanting high grades overall for her ambitions.

I am on team science but I appreciate that not everyone is and I guess that just as students can choose to only do one MFL or one humanity I can appreciate why this might be a decision which a 13/14yr old might make. DD hates languages so is only doing one. I think though I would try to establish though what the teachers recommend as practical.

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