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

Research and evaluation of the courses FAQs

What has been the impact of Twenty First Century Science on progression?  

How was pilot stage of Twenty First Century Science evaluated?

What research methods are used when a new GCSE course is proposed?

What has been the impact of Twenty First Century Science on progression?

A survey by Professor Robin Millar of the University of York has shown that schools using Twenty First Century Science are experiencing large increases in the number of students going on to study physics, chemistry or biology at AS-level compared with national averages.
More information about Robin Millar's study including the full report.

Further independent research has been commissioned by the Nuffield Foundation to look at patterns of participation and attainment within post-compulsory AS and A-level science courses across two consecutive cohorts of students.
More information about the Nuffield Foundation study

How was the pilot stage of Twenty First Century Science evaluated?

The Twenty First Century Science pilot started in September 2003. It was run by OCR, the awarding organisation, in close collaboration with the Project Team at Nuffield and York. the first cohort of students took their final GCSE exams in June 2005 at tehe end of their two-year GCSE courses.

Independent but co-ordinated evaluations were carried out by QCA, by OCR, and by the Twenty First Century Science Project Team itself. These looked at students' attitudes to science as well as their achievements; teachers' views on all aspects of the course, including demands for continuing professional development; and the reliability, validity and manageability of the assessment regime.

See Evaluation of the pilot

What research methods are used when a new GCSE course is proposed?

A student teacher asked a general question about what techniques are used to research the desire for a new course, and how the research is carried out. Here is a personal view from Peter Nicolson of the University of York.

I'm not sure there is any universal pattern. During the late 1970s and 80s, Mode 3 syllabuses (designed by groups of schools or even single schools) allowed any small group to develop and try out its own interests, subject to an element of quality control from an examining board.

Since then, there has tended to be a reduction in courses. The National Curriculum was developed partly to bring courses closer together rather than encourage new exploration. Most "standard" exam board specifications are simply evolutions from earlier ones. Suffolk science is a formalisation of something which began as a local initiative. The Salters series of developments began because a few people felt that science lacked any link to real world applications. Originally, just a few exemplar resources were produced, and it was the very positive response from teachers who tried them that led to a decision to develop a full course.

Many influences led to development of first GNVQ, then Applied Science for ages 14-16.

In general, education does not lend itself to quantitative research - anecdotal evidence and small scale case-studies are often more illuminating.

I think the real situation is often almost the reverse of what the original question implied. New courses arise through small-scale initiatives or contacts between individuals with similar ideas. They begin to grow when these ideas are published and found to attract wider interest, and research really begins at that stage, as developers search for current developments which would inform or support their work, and involve experts in relevant topics to help with the development.

I know this sounds rather casual and informal, but I don't think there is any established set of procedures for developing new curricula.

In the case of 21st Century Science, the development was more carefully structured over a period of years.

The QCA pilot study "Science for the 21st Century" arose from discussion seminars funded by the Nuffield Foundation and led by Ros Driver, Jonathan Osborne and Robin Millar. You can read their conclusions in Beyond 2000. These seminars were then followed by research projects which contacted various interest groups to devise a model for the course.