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

London reports

St Pauls Girls School, London
Preston Manor High School, Brent

Waldegrave School for Girls, Twickenham

Drayton Manor High School, west London

Haggerston School, east London

Clapton Girls Technology College

Dunraven School, London

You can also hear from students at Preston Manor High School and
St Paul's Girls' School in the summer 2008 video

Report from St Paul’s Girls School

Kate Lee Head of Physics, writes ...

We selected C21 Science for our dual award GCSE after very careful and protracted discussion in our Science Dept. We thought the alternatives (especially the IGCSE) very dry.

Previous GCSE Science courses appealed to the minority who were going to carry on with Science anyway. Previously I would start my Year 10 teaching, and after 3 weeks of speed = distance / time and 50 motion graphs later, two-thirds of them had switched off and had decided that physics was (a) boring and (b) too difficult. This year I started with module P1 “How old is the Universe? How do we know?” and their eyes lit up. The big thing about C21 is that it appeals to many more students than traditional courses.

The first half of C21 courses (GCSE Science) is a bit ‘touchy-feely’, if you like, but there is HUGE scope for some serious and rigorous discussion (which suits my pupils down to the ground; they love arguing).

The course gets more traditional in the Additional Science half and there is a LOT of good physics content (this is where one can detect echoes of the old Nuffield course). For example, I revel in being able to teach Newton's 2nd law as force = rate of change of momentum, and not mass x acceleration. Momentum - the "oomph" of something moving - is a far more intuitive concept than acceleration, which is a rate of change of a rate of change!

Our choice has proved very popular with the girls - and these are highly intelligent, motivated, academically selected girls. As a school, we are very happy with our choice.

Report from Preston Manor High School, Brent

Helen O'Connor writes

Six C21 schools in Brent and Ealing are supporting each other through regular cluster meetings. All of the schools have found this a challenging year. They have worked together to adjust to a curriculum which places much-needed emphasis on teaching the process of science in addition to the content.

Despite these challenges there have been many positives for both teachers and students. The Case Studies ion the GCSE Science course in particular have been a success: students are motivated to develop the demanding skills of data analysis, evaluation of evidence, and communication and presentation of scientific ideas. Students across the ability range have produced remarkable work.

One teacher was asked by a student why they were doing the Case Study. The teacher replied that it would help them to evaluate the quality of the science in what they were told, and make their own mind up whether to accept it or not. After some thought the student agreed.

This anecdote epitomises what the new GCSE Science course aims to achieve and why both teachers and students are committed to it. We are currently reviewing our teaching, working out how we can further adapt and teach GCSE Science really well. We are using the conceptual demands of the Ideas in Context exam paper, which students sat earlier this month, as a standard by which to measure our progress.

Report from Waldegrave School for Girls, Middlesex

Kay Forbes writes

In GCSE Science, our students enjoy debating scientific issues. The Case Study is an opportunity to achieve good marks through self-learning.

For those students not taking science further, I'm happy that they have a base for scientific decision-making in their lives.

Report from Drayton Manor High School, west London

C. Partridge writes

Our students are doing GCSE Science and Separate Sciences this year, and we intend to do Applied Science, Additional Science, and Entry Level Science as well next year.

Students feel that GCSE Science is really relevant to them - they notice science stories in the media and come in telling me about things they saw. Some students have told me that they explained science in the media stories to their parents, and loved it! (Examples are stories about stem cells and cystic fibrosis.) Students will now be more informed about science in their lives.

We've had some issues this year in getting the timing right, and teaching ideas about science consistently.

Some students will move onto A-level next year.

C21 and those learning English

Sheila Curtis, Head of Science at Haggerston School in Hackney writes

“As with any course, there are pros and cons to Twenty First Century Science. The discussion element in the GCSE Science course is helpful, especially to early stage English learners who do a lot of listening anyway. It is good for these students to be immersed in classrooms where students are discussing things about science in English. Also we have the opportunity for students to discuss/role play about the issues in their own language.

Students with English as an additional language find lessons with more writing and more teacher talk much harder.

The text books are like any other - they have a high reading age. However, I feel our job as teachers is to help the students access the text at whatever level they can. The use of illustrations is good and there are foundation level books which are slightly easier with larger text etc.

The assessed Case Study relies on a high level of literacy to get the top marks, but students can present their ideas in different ways. At Haggerston we allow poster work and supporting video which, for EAL students, is less challenging than writing an essay. Again, our job is to teach essay planning techniques and help student to structure their ideas.

See Baroness Walmsley's visit to Haggerson School and her comments on what she saw there

Report from Clapton Girls’ Technology College

Allana Gay writes ...

In September when books and resources were delivered I predicted disaster. Teachers would not be well prepared and the resources seemed of little help. But having taught C21 over the past year and witnessed how it has brought Science alive for my students, I know that this is the best way forward.

C21 is not limited in its cross-curricular appeal. GCSE Science teaches the skills which, as future scientists or not, will allow students to become sound decision-makers of the future.

My students, even those at the lowest learning level, can now make informed choices. They can read through articles, analyse the source, cross-reference with others of the same or differing opinion, and draw their own conclusions. The most talented of them can even persuade the most established opinion to their way of thinking. It has led to discussion in the home, and a rising interest in science-based issues in the media.

Applied Science and Additional Science allows students to think about their future endeavours.

Additional Science will lead to traditional scientists with a higher level of social awareness.

Applied Science gives students the opportunity to examine the world of Science in a more practical sense. They can bear witness the significance of these jobs and skills in a more critical manner. C21 has brought relevance to a subject area where ideas are generally abstract. Its purpose is clear to students. They relish the fact that they can excel not because the ‘tests are dumbed down’ but because the subject has a greater relevance and is now readily applied throughout their everyday lives.

That is how you know it is real learning.

Report from Dunraven School, London

Dr F. Taheri, Director of Learning (Science) writes ...

At Dunraven School, we are offering all our year 10 students the C21 science suite ranging from Separate Sciences, GCSE Science and Additional Science, and GCSE Science and Applied Science, and Entry Level Science.

Students motivation has been very encouraging. They are not bored in science any more. In GCSE Science, students have used the newspaper articles, science journals (Catalyst) and TV documentaries for their case studies and understanding of how science works.

The resources have been very helpful and science teachers are very motivated about the course. We are looking forward to teach the Additional Applied Science course next year to two classes not taking Triple Science.

From Hackney to Westminster

On Thursday morning 3 May, Baroness Walmsley visited Haggerston School for Girls in Hackney. This is one of the 75 pilot schools teaching Twenty First Century Science courses since September 2003. (Now there are about 900.) Baroness Walmsley was there as a guest of the Head of Science Sheila Curtis and Headteacher Maggie Kalnins. Andrew Hunt, one of the co-Directors of the C21 project joined them.

Later the same day, Baroness Walmsley contributed to the Lords’ debate on science education. Here are two extracts from her speech, taken from Hansard:

“This morning I visited Haggerston School in Hackney where the new 21st century science GCSE is being taught. I thank the girls, head, teachers and the school secretary for making me so welcome. I saw classes taking the applied science programme and the additional science. Both classes were engaged and interested. It was clear that they did plenty of practical work, mainly inside the laboratory. Both courses are very discursive so I worry a little about students for whom English is not their mother tongue. (See this response from Haggerston) However, the teaching vehicles were varied and interesting and I had no qualms about the scientific rigour of both courses.

“Those of us who learnt science the old way need to remember that today’s schools are teaching science to all children, many of whom would never have learnt it in the old days, because today’s young citizen is even more affected by science than we were. Maggie Kalnins, the head of the school I visited this morning, made a very interesting comment. She said, ‘I think this new curriculum will bring a wider range of types of people into science’. I hope that it does.”

You can find Baroness Walmsley’s full speech and those of others at:

Voices from the classroom

Student views of Twenty First Century Science

Preston Manor High School groupWhat do students and teachers think about Twenty First Century Science?

Hear from teachers and students at Settle College, St Paul's Girls' School, and Preston Manor High School.

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