It is a straight forward choice isn’t it? If you intend to do sciences at A level and beyond you should be doing triple science: that holy trinity of Physics, Biology and Chemistry. If you don’t, you should do double science. Right? Well, there are some ethical points to consider.

If you want the best outcomes, grade 7-9s in your science subjects, then don’t forget there are only so many to go around give or take a couple of percent. Despite OFQUAL’s constant assurances that we have not returned to norm referencing, they are still adjusting the grade boundaries to ensure that results are broadly similar from year to year. Guess where all those top setters Grade 7-9s are? Those pupils benefitting from value added top set status,private coaching and determined aspirations are all in triple science! Looks like a blood bath for those top grades over there. If you are thinking of trying to manipulate your Progress 8 outcomes what might you put your pupils in for? Double Science of course! However, you should not be doing what’s best for the school should you – it should be what’s best for the pupil, right? And if that means cramming three subjects into the same amount of subject time as two subjects then so be it.

Yes – three subjects spread over the same time as two subjects. You might ask questions: what exactly are they learning in triple science that they are not learning in double science and is it really the best preparation for A level sciences and science in higher education? What about those who do double science but would be just as good for A level as the potential Year 8 (options are earlier every year) or year 9 pupils sitting there and thinking about their options. Would not exposure to some triple content  put you at an unfair advantage over your peer who completed double science? I hear the “I told you so. They are not up to A-Level” – well if they had a second bite of the cherry they may have been fine!

Speaking at the 2018 ASE conference, Amanda Spielman said some schools are wasting talent by putting the choice of triple science and A-level  in the hands of attainment and not aspirations. Curriculum or attainment – what should be the driver of choice?

One thought on “Double or Quits: Triple Science and the Ethical Dilemma

  1. An earlier question to ask, what is the purpose of combined science? Maybe it should be discontinued and students provided the choice of single sciences (including computer science!) or geography which is the original multidisclinary subject that features combined science.

    Is normative-reference assessment bad as implied? It is a reflection of young peoples’ futures ahead: there are only going to be a certain amount of jobs available at a given time and employers will ultimately make a judgement based around normative-reference. The private sector cannot tell ten candidates that they will all be employed because they all met the criteria of the job advertisement. Perhaps education should adopt criterion-reference assessment up to KS3, then normative-reference assessment at GC(S)E (level 2/3) qualifications and beyond. As for school performance measures, they should be secondary to students’ aspirations and Ms Spielman is correct to state this.


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