Qualifications Explained

Science Explained

Double Science - Triple Science

Last year several parents and students asked for further clarity on the different Science courses followed in KS4.

All students have 9 hours of Science lessons per fortnight in Year 9, 10 and 11 as part of their core curriculum.

Around two thirds of our students follow a double award in Science during this time. They learn all three Science areas, biology, chemistry and physics, each of which is taught by specialist teacher. Two GCSEs in Science are awarded.

Approximately 60 students follow the triple award. They opt for this as one of their option subjects, and the additional four hours per fortnight from this option is added to the core allocation to make 13 hours per fortnight. This is split between Biology, Chemistry and Physics, each of which being taught by a specialist teacher. Students work towards three separate GCSEs, one in Biology, one in Chemistry and one in Physics.

Grouping of students

  • The two triple award groups are set by ability, and spend all 13 hours in their groups.
  • Four double award groups are set by ability, and spend all 9 hours in their group.

Advice on taking triple science
Students taking this option need to really enjoy Science! It is an excellent option for those wishing to go on to take one or more A-levels in Science, but it is not essential to take triple science in order to continue to study science subjects post-16. Good grades in the double award also provide a sound foundation for A-level Sciences, and some of our most able students choose double award to give them more choices for other GCSE subjects in their pathway. However, our advice is that if you enjoy Science and you are good at it, then triple award is a good option for you.

Mr Stonehouse and your Science teacher will talk to you about triple award. Some of you may be recommended to follow double award rather than triple. This will be based on their knowledge of your progress in Science and experience of the demands of the course. They will want you to get the best grades possible, and will suggest the best option for you and your future.

Please see the subject pages in the Core Subjects section and Pathway GE for further information.

'New' GCSEs

Since 2018 students have taken the 'new' format GCSE courses. The main features of these new qualifications:

How do the new grades relate to the 'old' A*-G grades?

  • Grades 1-9 are awarded. These are not directly comparable with the current lettered grades, however,:
    • the bottom of the new '1' grade is the same as the bottom of a G
    • the bottom of the new '4' grade is the same as the bottom of a C
    • the bottom ot the new '7' grade is the same as the bottom of an A.
  • The new 1-9 system therefore has 2 more grades for assessing grade 4 and above than the old A*-G system used for a grade C and above. This provides a finer distinction between students previously attaining C/B grades, and also those previously attaining A/A* grades.
  • A grade 9 will be awarded to the top 20% of students who are awarded a 7 or better.

In 2018, the first year of awarding the majority of these new GCSEs, the same proportion of students who would have achieved a C or better in the old GCSEs were awarded a grade 4 or better. (New GCSEs in maths and English were first awarded in 2017). This was designed to ensure that our 2017 Year 11 students were not disadvantaged by being the first cohort to go through the new system for maths and English, and our 2018 Year 11 for the majority of the other subjects.

How are the new GCSEs assessed?

Most subjects are assessed entirely by exams. Some subjects still have a component of coursework / controlled assessment.

The only subjects with a foundation and higher tier are maths, sciences and languages.

Will the new GCSEs be harder than the current GCSEs?
Reformed GCSE are designed to "prepare young people better to the next steps in their education or employment". This generally means that there are more demanding programmes of study with greater rigour and challenge.


Vocational qualifications vs GCSE

We have had a few enquiries about what the vocational courses available at HCHS are "worth". The following equivalences related to the 'new' GCSE grades.

From 2023 we shall be offering NCFE Level 1/2 technical awards in four subjects: sport, business, music technology and ICT. The principles are very similar to the current BTEC courses, but we feel that they better meet the learning needs of our students and will provide a more engaging and enjoyable course.

All of these vocational courses are equivalent to 1 GCSE. Students will be awarded either at Level 2 (equivalent to grade 4-9 GCSE [A*-C grade in old GCSE terms] or at Level 1 [equivalent to grade 1-3 GCSEs]. Within each level students will be awarded a pass, merit, distinction or distinction*.

Over the last few years vocational courses have been reviewed and upgraded to meet the more rigorous national requirements for recognised qualifications. The NCFE courses that we have selected are assessed through 60% coursework and 40% terminal assessment.