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DCSF guidance for SIPs: Pupils’ choice of level 2 science qualifications


This guidance outlines the importance of making sure all pupils are given good quality information, advice and guidance (IAG) that will help them decide which level 2 science qualifications they should study in Key Stage 4.


DCSF would like advisers, using their knowledge of the schools they are supporting and the data to which they have access, to look at the range of level 2 science qualifications being offered in their groups of schools and the information, advice and guidance that pupils are receiving to inform them about what science qualifications they take. In instances where advisers think there might be an issue with what schools are offering, or about the advice they are giving, we would like them to discuss this further with the school.


In 2006, alongside the new Key Stage 4 science curriculum, a new suite of level 2 science qualifications was introduced to provide pupils with greater choice and flexibility, to suit their learning needs and any future science learning aspirations, post 16, as well as possible. At the same time, the Government introduced a statutory entitlement for all Key Stage 4 pupils to study at least two science GCSEs. This entitlement includes either GCSE science and GCSE additional science or the three individual sciences of physics, chemistry and biology, otherwise referred to as triple science GCSEs. These two sets of qualifications provide the only route to studying all three sciences at A Level.

In the last couple of years there has been a welcome increase in the number of young people taking triple science GCSEs. There has also been an increase in the number of pupils studying for applied science qualifications, including GCSE applied science. Additionally, there have been significant increases in numbers studying for qualifications such as BTEC and OCR vocational qualifications. The number of pupils taking both GCSE science and GCSE additional science has, however, declined.

There may be sound reasons for the trends we are seeing overall but there is concern that the pattern of uptake of the different options in individual schools is very variable. For example, an analysis of school-level data has shown that there are some schools where very few pupils are undertaking GCSE science. While this might accurately reflect pupils' interests and aspirations for the future, it does, at first glance, appear to go against what we would normally expect, which is a strong mix of different routes being followed. Equally, there are large variations in the proportion of pupils who take triple science, among schools that are currently offering access to it.

DCSF need to ensure that all pupils are receiving the IAG to enable them to choose, with the support of their school and their parents, the science qualifications that best suit their needs, and that they are aware of the implications of their choice on any further science learning and eventual career pathways they may want to follow. This has been emphasised in the Government's recently published IAG strategy, Quality, Choice and Aspiration – A strategy for young people's information, advice and guidance. DCSF has also invested heavily in putting in place information for pupils, teachers and parents about the range of careers to which studying science qualifications can eventually lead. This includes the following websites:

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  • DCSF guidance for SIPs: Pupils’ choice of level 2 science qualifications