- 28 June 2023
On Wednesday 28 June, Qualifications Wales published their decisions regarding new
qualifications in the sciences for Wales.
The Royal Society of Biology submitted a response to the Qualification Wales consultation in December 2022, welcoming their proposal to introduce a single route through the sciences with a double award GCSE. Since then, RSB along with other science organisations (or “learned societies”) have met repeatedly with Qualifications Wales to discuss decisions and outcomes from the consultation.
The decision report published today states:
“We have continued to work closely with the learned societies on these changes. They have strongly supported the creation of a single route through the sciences at GCSE with a new double award qualification that can provide the advantages of the triple award science route in a more equitable way. However, the learned societies have made clear that they do not support our decision to create a new single-award GCSE alongside the double award, as they are concerned that this could lead to a two-tier system. While we appreciate this view, we remain confident that the single award offers an important alternative for a small proportion of learners to study the sciences at GCSE level and progress successfully on to a range of post-16 STEM pathways.” (p185)
RSB has significant concerns that the decision to introduce a new single award GCSE in The Sciences, without consultation, undermines the positive reforms in the new double award GCSE. We ask Qualification Wales to fully consult on the introduction of a single award, and to return to their original proposal of a single route through the sciences at GCSE until that consultation is complete.
RSB seeks to ensure that all young people in Wales have equal access to high quality teaching and learning in the sciences, preparing students to be scientifically literate, make scientifically informed choices and ready them for a diverse and evolving world of work, and strongly advocates for a single route through the sciences at GCSE. The existing multiple routes at GCSE create inequity in the system, and exacerbate the perception that the sciences are only for the most able students.
Alongside other science organisations, RSB has supported the creation of a new double award GCSE, with separate grading of the sciences, assessment of practical skills, and a breadth of content within a more easily timetabled double GCSE that will enable progression to A levels. We welcome the title of “The Sciences”, emphasising the nature of the three disciplines while also emphasising interdisciplinary content. However, introduction of a single award GCSE recreates the existing stratification of The Sciences and risks a continuation of students being selected out of the sciences at an early stage in their schooling, through options choices that aren’t truly their own.
The decision to introduce a single award GCSE for the Sciences was not consulted on, and the
existence of such a qualification alongside the double award does not align with the RSB’s position on a single route through the sciences. We are unable to comment on the content of a single award due to the lateness of this decision. The multiple pathways described in Qualification Wales decision report do not align with the evidence-based approach discussed by the learned societies and Qualifications Wales over many months.
The single route approach we advocate for would enable all students to study science, keeping
their options open for longer, and caters to students of all attainment levels through tiering of the assessment, and ensures there is not gatekeeping of the sciences based on prior attainment in Key Stages 2 and 3. The proposals for multiple pathways at GCSE, including a level 1 foundation qualification, in the science, muddy the waters and maintain inequity in the system.
The RSB calls on Qualifications Wales to:
- Fully consult on the introduction of a single award GCSE for the Sciences
- Return to their original proposal of a single route through the sciences at GCSE
- Provide a written justification on the Board’s decision to introduce a single award GCSE, including its purpose, need, and how it intends to work with Welsh Government to ensure the double award GCSE The Sciences is an entitlement for all students in Wales.
The full text of Qualifications Wales' report can be read online and sections on science can be found between pages 183 to 203.