Schools Minister Nick Gibb gave an interesting speech to the HMC recently urgiing independent schools to get more involved in helping set up free schools and academies. In his speech he said "it cannot be right that no pupil was entered for any of the single award science GCSEs in 719 mainstream state schools."
Science GCSE was introduced in 2006. Sir Richard Sykes, then Rector of Imperial College warned against it as a dumbed down qualification – teaching topics such as Global Warming. It lacked the academic rigour of the individual GCSEs in chemistry, physics and biology. If the Schools Minister agrees will he scrap GCSE Science?
Nick Gibb's speech detailed just what a poor inheritance the Government has so far as education standards are concerned:
"We’re failing to keep pace with countries with the best education systems – falling back in the PISA international rankings, from fourth to sixteenth in science; seventh to 25th in literacy; and eighth to 28th in maths – meaning our 15-year-olds are two years behind their Chinese peers in maths; and a year behind teenagers in Korea or Finland in reading.
We’re still not meeting the expectations of employers – with the CBI’s annual education and skills survey just last month finding that almost half of top employers had to invest in remedial training for school and college leavers.
And we’ve still not closed the yawning attainment gap – which remains unacceptably wide both between rich and poor and between state and private sectors.
Professor William Richardson’s excellent report for the HMC 18 months ago, showed the top ten universities’ increasing reliance on the independent sector – with 40% of all students on strategically important courses like engineering, science, maths and languages, drawn from private schools.
And last year’s A-level results also showed a fifth of all entrants in chemistry, physics, maths and biological sciences and almost a third in further maths were independent school pupils.
But as a nation, we can’t carry on relying on the seven per cent of young people the independent sector educates, to provide such a high proportion of future generations of scientists, engineers, medics or linguists.
The key to both social mobility and a mobile economy is to realise the potential, ability and talent of young people from all backgrounds.
That’s why we’ve introduced the English Baccalaureate.
The Russell Group has been quite clear about the core GCSE and A-level subjects which equips students best for the most competitive courses – English; maths; the three sciences; geography; history; classical and modern languages.
So the E-Bacc is designed to open up those same subjects to tens of thousands of state pupils currently denied the opportunity.
We need to take clear action.
It is a major concern to us that nine out of ten state pupils eligible for free school meals are not even entered for the E-Bacc subjects – and just 4% actually achieve it.
It is a concern that the proportion taking a modern foreign language GCSE has slipped from 79% a decade ago to just 43% last year – and little more than a third when you take out independent schools.
And it cannot be right that no pupil was entered for any of the single award science GCSEs in 719 mainstream state schools; for French in 169; for geography in 137; and for history in 70.
The most academic subjects must not become the preserve of independent schools."