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The maths and science mystery

More research is needed to find out why young people are shunning science and maths A-levels, Sir Ron Dearing says.

Dearing's maths and science group, chaired by Nick Tate, the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority chief executive, showed that the proportion of A-level students doing the subjects fell from 29.8 per cent in 1984 to 16.6 per cent last year. Reasons include society's undervaluing of maths and science, a general view that the subjects are dull, and teaching quality.

The research also showed that maths and science were more difficult than other subjects at A-level. Physics and chemistry were found to be nearly three-quarters of a grade more difficult compared to other subjects, while maths was slightly less than half a grade harder. Meanwhile higher education departments find new students do not meet the required standards.

Sir Ron says secondary pupils planning to take A-level maths should be encouraged to take a GCSE paper in additional maths and the range of curriculum materials available to bridge the gap between GCSE and A-level should be reviewed. Schools should use 20 per cent of curriculum time for double science lessons, the report recommends.

It wants the Teacher Training Agency to look into the attitudes of parents, pupils and teachers to maths and sciences.

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