Science revisions so mad they could be work of a nutty professor

25th June 2010 at 01:00

I have serious concerns about the new science GCSEs, due to start in September 2011 ("Ofqual: try again on new science GCSE", June 18).

The current GCSE science specifications are only allowed to run until June 2012, when the "new" exams take over. As things stand, the new specifications have just been rejected by Ofqual and exam boards have been asked to rewrite them. This means they will not be ready and cleared until at least mid-September 2010. If a school runs its GCSE course over two years, starting in Year 10, this is not a problem as it does not need to start teaching the new material until September 2011.

However, for mine and hundreds of other schools, this is a major problem. We run our GCSE over three years, starting in Year 9. This was primarily introduced to facilitate the expansion of triple science, as is the Government's desire.

With the old course finishing in 2012 (which will be the end of Year 10 for our Year 9s starting this September), we are forced to start the new specification with them this September. This means we now face the prospect of teaching them the "new" specifications, the draft copies of which have now been rejected and the approved versions of which will not be ready until after the point at which we have to start teaching them.

There are two obvious solutions. First, the exam boards should have been asked to get new specifications written and approved some time ago so that schools had time to prepare (somehow I suspect I would be told this wasn't possible due to X, Y and Z and it too late for this now in any case).

This leaves us with the only other option to help the hundreds of schools that design their curriculum in this way, and that is to increase the life of the old specification by another year, thus alleviating the problem for the coming Year 9 group. Subsequent years can simply start the new specification as is intended.

Quite how and why this evaded the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency, Ofqual and the Government is beyond me. It is a staggering oversight that means thousands of Year 9 students will be taught material in September from draft specifications that may then be removed. How can this possibly be? Two government quangos between them don't seem to have seen this coming.

Lawrence Foster, Director of learning, science, Sandringham School, Hertfordshire.

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