Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 74 - 79)




  74. As we say in Parliament, order, order, our session begins. Can I say welcome and thank you to the Science Museum for hosting this novel event, which has never been done by parliamentarians before in taking evidence, so we are blazing a new trail, which is exciting. Thank you all for coming along and giving us the benefit of your knowledge, because you have been doing work in a subject area in which we are very interested. You can see by our age that you are much closer to what happens now in the process that we are examining, that is science education in schools. We are very much looking forward in a friendly fashion to asking you questions. Do not be frightened or intimidated by the cameras. We are not trying to trip you up. It is not like school with teachers trying to catch you out, or anything like that. We are trying to get you to say what you feel and help us in our inquiry with new ideas. If you would like to start by introducing yourselves and telling me how you would like to answer the first couple of questions which I will ask of you. Please introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about what science you have being doing.

  (Ben Wormald) My name is Ben Wormald. I am studying maths, chemistry and history A-level. I studied double award science at school and I enjoyed every minute of it.
  (Helena Perry) I am Helena Perry. I am from Quintin Kynaston Secondary School and I am in the sixth form. I am in my second year and I am studying English, ITS and psychology. I did the double award science and it put me off doing it at A-level.
  (Hannah Greensmith) My name is Hannah Greensmith. I go to Birkenhead High School, which is on the Wirral. I am doing biology, geography, French and politics for A-level and I did the double science award for GCSE. I enjoyed it very much, but I do not think it challenged my scientific knowledge enough.

  75. Thank you very much. In the studies you have been doing what have you found out about the GCSE science options? What are your ideas about the options? What discoveries have you made in all the investigations that you have done? Are you going to speak individually?
  (Ben Wormald) Yes. What we found out is that the vast majority of students who studied triple award science did go on to study science further, ie to A-level. Of students who have done the double award and single award the percentage of students who did carry on science does drop quite dramatically. Perhaps studying science GCSE to a greater depth encourages people to study further, it certainly seems that way. I can imagine that in terms of brushing over several topics you are going in greater depth into separate sciences and you can capture people's imaginations. We did find out that the vast majority of private school pupils did study triple award, whereas only 16 per cent of state school pupils were able to study the triple award.

Mr McWalter

  76. The double or triple award?
  (Ben Wormald) Only 16 per cent of students who come from state schools could study the triple award. From my experience I was not allowed to study it, there was not an option to study the triple award. I do feel that if people have the option of studying the triple award they will definitely take it up. I definitely would. If you are stopping many people from taking triple award science you are sapping away a great deal of enthusiasm.


  77. You think more people should go on with science, do you?
  (Ben Wormald) Exactly.

  78. Why do they not then?
  (Helena Perry) From personal experience it feels as if in the double award you do not go into much depth or anything like that. I found that my brother had much more interesting topics in the triple award.

  79. Give me an example?
  (Helena Perry) It was all separate, whereas when you have double you are just doing a topic, you have to memorise it and then you go on to another topic and it keeps on going like that. In the triple there are three different sciences which are separate and three different teachers. There are some set-ups like that and you learn each topic that way. For me it would be clearer when you go into the exam if you do each science separately rather than going into the exam having topics, which I think is valueless.

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