Meeting 20 (8th Oct. 2013): Schools that make a difference to post-compulsory uptake of science

The next meet­ing will take place on Tues­day 8th October at 7:30pm and will be mod­er­ated by @alomshaha.

Bennett et al. (2013) Schools that make a difference to post-compulsory uptake of physical science subjects: some comparative case studies in in England. International Journal of Science Education, 35:4, 663-689, DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2011.641131 (PDF here).

Abstract: This paper presents the findings of the qualitative component of a combined methods research study that explores a range of individual and school factors that influence the uptake of chemistry and physics in post- compulsory study in England. The first phase involves using the National Pupil Database to provide a sampling frame to identify four matched pairs of high-uptake and low-uptake schools by salient school factors. Case studies of these eight schools indicate that students employ selection strategies related to their career aspirations, their sense of identity and tactics, and their prior experience. The school factors influencing subject choice relate to school management, student support and guidance, and student empowerment. The most notable differences between students in high-uptake and low-uptake schools are that students in high-uptake schools appear to make a proactive choice in relation to career aspirations, rather than a reactive choice on the basis of past experience. Schools with a high uptake offer a diverse science curriculum in the final two years of compulsory study, set higher examination entry requirements for further study and, crucially, provide a range of opportunities for students to interact with the world of work and to gain knowledge and experience of science-related careers.

Dis­cus­sion points

  1. How important is it in your school to increase the number of students taking science subjects post-16? Why?
  2. “Schools where science were taught separately at GCSE (triple science) had higher levels of uptake than schools where triple science was not offered”. Why might this be the case? Would you use this as an argument for doing triple science in your school? (Note that: “the provision of a triple science option did not, in itself, appear to have a universally positive effect, rather, there were benefits when it was offered as one of a number of choices”)
  3. “Pupils in high-uptake schools were more likely to make a proactive choice: they were looking towards their future, they saw themselves as in control, and saw the value of studying chemistry and/or physics for their intended career”. If we want more students to study science post-16, should we be making more of the possible career benefits?
  4. Low-uptake schools had “less stringent requirements for science grades at GCSE than high uptake schools”. Could such findings influence your school’s policy on this? Or do you think requiring high GCSE grades is unfair to those who have low grades but want to continue to study science?

With thanks to the Mary Whitehouse and the University of York Science Education Group, who first made us aware of this research and have made the paper available for us to access for this meeting.

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One Response to Meeting 20 (8th Oct. 2013): Schools that make a difference to post-compulsory uptake of science

  1. Bio_Joe says:

    Here are some other references in the same area:
    Havard, N. (1996). Student attitudes to studying A-level sciences. Public Understanding of Science, 5(4). 321-330 doi: 10.1088/0963-6625/5/4/002

    James, K. (2007). Factors influencing students’ choice (s) of experimental science subjects within the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Journal of Research in International Education, 6(1). 9-39 doi: 10.1177/1475240907074787

    Newman, M., Bangpan, M., Tripney, J. (2010). Factors Influencing Young People (Aged 14-19) in Education about STEM Subject Choices: A systematic review of the UK literature, Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre (EPPI-Centre). ISBN 978-1-84129-087-4 Available at (last accessed 23rd April 2012)

    Pike, A. & Dunne, M. (2011). Student reflections on choosing to study science post-16. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 6(2). 485-500 doi: 10.1007/s11422-010-9273-7

    Royal Society, The. (2011). Preparing for the transfer from school and college science and mathematics education to UK STEM higher education A ’state of the nation’ report. ISBN: 978-0-85403-872-5 Available at (last accessed 23rd April 2012)

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