A suite of GCSE science courses developed in partnership with the University of York

East and North-East reports

Bradfield School, Sheffield
St Michaels RC School, Billingham

Robert Manning Technology College, Lincolnshire

Sherburn High School, Leeds

Hear from students at Settle College in the summer 2008 video

Report from Bradfield School, Sheffield

The Additional Applied Science GCSE course is brilliant and has truly motivated many students. I have really enjoyed teaching these topics and my two bottom sets are on target for 33% C and above! this is most encouraging.

Penny Stothard

Report from St Michael’s RC School, Billingham

Chris Colclough writes

Twenty First Century Science has allowed teachers to be creative in developing a variety of practical activities that use the talents of students in other curriculum areas, such as the Arts, to express scientific concepts. This has raised the motivation of many students who would otherwise have found 'traditional' science off-putting.

Challenges and support

The suite of courses has so far presented the challenges typical of any new specification. There have been implications for developing appropriate teaching styles, effective debating, gathering resources particularly related to contemporary issues, and tackling 'how science works' through planned lessons.

Support has been available through the exam boards, ASE and the Science Learning Centres. As a pilot school, we have led our regional cluster of ten schools in our local authority. They have found the opportunity to share experiences and good practice valuable.

Student skill development

There has been an increase in student engagement with science issues through debate and responding in 'real time' to issues from news reports. Students have recognised the relevance of lessons to everyday life and have particularly enjoyed discussions around ethical issues. The GCSE Science course has set foundations in terms of developing science skills, such as ‘asking appropriate questions’, ‘recognising limitations in data’, ‘recognising bias ’, and ‘questioning sources of evidence’. This has developed students' scientific literacy.

The GCSE Science course is not content-driven, but empowers young people in making decisions relevant to life. It gives students the basic concepts in science, and allows them to make decisions about the most appropriate Additional Science course matching their aspirations, aptitude and career plans.

Managing the courses

Since the pilot, we have found it more appropriate to teach GCSE Science and Additional Science / Applied Science courses in parallel, so that pupils experience variety in both content and teaching style. However, in order to allow teachers to develop schemes of work and the expertise required for this new curriculum, schools starting the course this year have delivered only the GCSE Science course before delivering Additional Science / Applied Science in Year 11.

The ten Twenty First Century Science schools in our LA are all positive about the impact on engagement with science for students of all ability that the GCSE Science course has had so far.

Student achievement

The expectation is that 80% of students will study two science GCSEs as a minimum, while the most able students have the entitlement to study three Separate Sciences at GCSE. From our pilot experience, students completing Twenty First Century GCSE Science and Twenty First Century Science Additional Science, or Additional Applied Science, have achieved value-added scores beyond our expectations.

Numbers going on to study science post-16 have increased. Our sixth form colleges have found that the skills developed by these courses, along with the science content of the Additional Science course, has well prepared the students for science at AS level.

Report from Robert Manning Technology College, Lincolnshire

by Richard Folk

We are running or plan to run GCSE Science, Entry Level, and Additional Science

The students have definitely stopped saying 'Why are we doing this?'

But we just don't have enough time to plan, develop, and implement the courses properly.

Students are able to go on to A-levels in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Science for Public Understanding.

Report from Sherburn High School, Leeds

Rosemary Dunnill writes

This year we've been doing GCSE Science, Separate Sciences, and Entry Level in year 10. Next year, year 10 will do the same.

Those doing Separate Sciences will continue with this in year 11. Those who did GCSE Science will do either Additional Science (high ability) or Applied Science (middle ability). Those who did Entry Level in year 10 will do Applied Science in year 11.

GCSE Science is interesting, relevant, and really stretches high ability students as well as giving them as much or more knowledge and understanding of the topics covered. It's different and more like the sort of thing students have been studying in other subject areas (such as uses of sources of information). Students really enjoyed the case study.

We've always done Entry Level with students who need this, and find that this version is better resourced.

Challenges? Lower ability students struggle with the ideas about science, possibly lacking maturity to discuss ethics. It would be better if there were more practical work in GCSE Science (yes if we taught Additional Science in parallel it would solve this, but we haven't yet had time for the careful planning needed).

What next? We offer A-levels in all three sciences, and hope the increased interest in top groups will lead to increased uptake.