++ Schools in the least affluent areas account for only 85,000 entries for Biology, Chemistry and Physics GCSEs, compared to 160,000 from advantaged schools ++
++ Pupils in most deprived schools opting instead for ‘Film Studies’ and ‘Health & Social Care’ ++
New research has found that students in the most deprived schools are half as likely as those from more affluent schools to be entered for individual GCSEs in Chemistry, Biology, and Physics
The schools with the most children on free school meals accounted for only 22% of entries for triple science in 2014 – just under 85,000. This compared to 43% of entries coming from the schools with the most advantaged pupils – a total of over 160,000.
There is a direct relationship: the more students in receipt of pupil premium a school has, the less likely they are to offer these tougher options.
The single sciences studied as three separate GCSEs are widely regarded as more rigorous than ‘Core’ or ‘Double/Additional Science’ and are rated higher by sixth forms and universities. The top universities in the country say that “pupils who take separate sciences at GCSE are more likely to get higher grades in A-level science compared to those who take double-science”.
But only three of the 50 schools with the highest levels of pupils on free school meals entered students for triple science last year. This compares to 35 of the 50 schools with the fewest pupils on free school meals, and 46 of the top 50 independent schools. Free schools saw the highest proportion of their entries for the single sciences, at 9% compared to 7% for maintained schools.
The reverse can be seen with ‘softer’ subjects. Schools with higher proportions of children in receipt of free school meals are far more likely to offer these less well-regarded courses. The schools with the highest number of poor pupils accounted for almost half of all entries for Film Studies and Health and Social Care. They also saw a disproportionate take-up of English Language and Literature, considered less rigorous than the separate English Literature qualification.
Nick Timothy, Director of the New Schools Network, said:
“Free Schools are all about raising standards, but too often, elsewhere in the state sector, the poorest pupils are hampered by low expectations. Free schools are ahead of the field when it comes to the number of pupils entered for the single sciences, and tend to have a strong academic ethos. We desperately need more of them to deliver the quality and excellence that will help students of all backgrounds make it to the top.”