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Science GCSEs

The high number of state sixth forms that do not enter students for science and maths A-levels (TES, February 29) are more likely due to experiences at GCSE than the perceived difficulty of the A-levels.

Many GCSE students will not have had the "luxury" of being taught by specialist teachers. A quarter of state 11-16 schools lack a physics specialist, a sixth lack a chemistry specialist and a quarter of maths teachers are not specialists. We know students studying three separate science GCSEs are more likely to go on to take science A-levels and do well. Yet, as you point out, just a third of state schools offer these GCSEs. So it is not surprising that Hitchin Boys' School improved A-level uptake by a staff recruitment drive. Clearly, it did not make the A-levels easier.

We urge the Government to set subject-specific goals for teacher training, to direct new teachers to schools where they are most needed, and ensure the target for all schools to offer separate science GCSEs is realised.

Dr Hilary Leevers, Assistant Director, Campaign for Science and Engineering, London.

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