GCSE 21st Century Science: comparisons of participation and attainment in post-compulsory science

Enhancing participation in post-compulsory science courses is a major policy goal within the UK. Reports have identified low numbers of scientists and engineers as a major cause for concern. The principal aim of the Twenty First Century Science (21CS) suite of GCSE specifications is to address the dual goals of enhancing the school science experiences of those students who do not pursue post-compulsory science courses whilst also providing an appropriate foundation for further science study.

This project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, aims to addresses aspects of the second of these goals: patterns of participation and attainment within post-compulsory science courses across two consecutive cohorts of students. Our analysis will use national datasets (within England) to examine and compare patterns of participation and attainment within post-compulsory science courses for students completing 21CS and non-21CS specifications at KS4. This project builds on our previous work, detailed reports to Nuffield, analysing participation and attainment patterns of the first AS cohort of students who had the opportunity to take 21CS GCSEs, and compared these patterns to those who had taken non-21CS GCSEs.

The main aims of the new study are:

  • To investigate participation and attainment on post-compulsory AS and A-level science courses for students completing specifications within the GCSE 21CS suite, and to explore the role of gender, specification and AS subject (biology, chemistry or physics) in this.
  • To compare the post-compulsory science participation and attainment of GCSE 21CS students with that of students completing science specifications other than the 21CS suite.

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