Education and skills

Educating the next generation of scientists

The Department for Education has made good progress in improving take-up and achievement in areas such as A-Level maths and GCSE Triple Science. However, there has been less success in increasing the number of science teachers, improving take-up of A-Level physics and raising the standards of school science facilities.

Boy conducting science experiment

    “The Department for Education has focused its resources on improving pupil take-up and achievement in school science and maths, and has made good progress in areas such as A-Level maths and GCSE Triple Science. To make further progress, what’s needed is a more joined-up approach, bringing together key success factors into more coherent pathways that maximize successful results and efficient use of public resources.”

    Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 12 November 2010


    A National Audit Office report published today has found that the Department for Education has made good progress in improving take-up and achievement in areas such as A-Level maths and GCSE Triple Science. However, there has been less success in increasing the number of science teachers, improving take-up of A-Level physics and raising the standards of school science facilities.

    There is evidence that pupils taking Triple Science GCSE are more likely than those studying combined science to choose science subjects at A-Level and to achieve higher grades. While starting from a low base, pupil take-up of the three individual sciences has increased by almost 150 per cent in the last five years. However, by June 2009, almost half of secondary schools still did not offer Triple Science.

    Take-up of chemistry and maths A-Level has already exceeded the targets for 2014 set by the Department, but take-up of physics A-Level has increased only slightly since 2005-06. Achievement increased across all science subjects and maths at A-Level between 2002-03 and 2009-10.

    Until recently, the Department had a target to ensure that all school laboratories were up to a good or excellent standard by 2010. However, it did not collect routine data to measure progress against this target, and the most recent research available found that science facilities were inadequate in around a quarter of secondary schools.

    Although recruitment of science graduates to train as specialist teachers has increased, the Department is not on course to meet the targets set by the previous Government for recruiting more mathematics and physics teachers by 2014.

    Take-up of initiatives to encourage pupils to study science and to improve achievement is high, although there are regional variations and a small number of schools are not accessing any. The Department has made progress in rationalizing the plethora of initiatives previously available.

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