Examination of Witnesses (Questions 74
TUESDAY 19 MARCH 2002
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
(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.
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