Ofqual has released figures showing exam entries for this summer and they make for interesting reading. The headline is that there are fewer early entries especially in English and Maths. This was only to be expected – now that schools are credited with the first result a student obtains the appetite for early and repeated entry has waned. The smart money is now on entering students when they’re ready, and not until.
There’s also a lot of movement in terms of sciences. Biology, Chemistry and Physics entries are down by 12%, 11% and 9% respectively. Again, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Many schools identify students who are capable of getting the English Baccalaureate and ensure that their timetable includes the necessary range of qualifiers. Two sciences are sufficient so why enter them for three and risk ‘grade depression’, especially now that the courses are end examined? The same argument applies to the incoming ‘Progress 8’ measure. Grades matter and two Bs look better than three Cs. Certainly if it looks as if the Cs are not secure…
On that basis we’d expect an increase in Science and Additional Science. Sure enough, the latter is up by 18% and the former by a whopping 32%. This certainly supports the notion of a drift away from Triple. However, there’s more going on than that. It also seems likely that there’s a migration away from non-GCSE courses – a sense that Ebacc qualifiers are the only game in town.
It also seems likely that the policy of entering students for core science at the end of Year 10 and Additional at the end of Year 11 is diminishing. Previously students could re-sit Science in Year 11 if their first entry was disappointing but that’s now a less attractive policy.
What to make of it? Well, as the replacement to Science + Additional Science will be an end-examined dual award course, if students are now doing these exams at the end of Year 11 the transition for science departments will be eased. It’s also no bad thing if students who are capable of completing a GCSE course are now doing so rather than being guided onto other options. I think the other conclusion though is about performance indicators and their impact on school curriculum policies. Ebacc measures doesn’t do Triple Science recruitment any good. The DfE wants more students to do Triple Science; it has to recognise that its Ebacc based performance indicators works against this. There are good arguments for encouraging schools to offer a broad based academic curriculum and to recognise progress. It needs to be recognised that the current measures are discouraging schools from expanding Triple Science provision.