Make science easier, examiners are told

Adam Kula & Alexandra Frean:

Examiners will have to set easier questions in some GCSE science papers, under new rules seen by The Times. A document prepared by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents awarding bodies across Britain, says that, from next year, exam papers should consist of 70 per cent “low-demand questions”, requiring simpler or multiple-choice answers. These currently make up just 55 per cent of the paper.
The move follows growing concern about the “dumbing down” of science teaching at GCSE and grade inflation of exam results, which critics claim is the result of a government drive to reverse the long-term decline in the number of pupils studying science.
In the past five years, the proportion of students gaining a grade D or better in one of the combined science papers has leapt from 39.6 to 46.7 per cent.
The latest move has been condemned by an education expert. Last night Professor Alan Smithers, head of the Education and Employment Research Centre at the University of Buckingham, said: “Deliberately increasing the proportion of easier questions is a clear example of lowering the bar.”