GCSE science ‘clangers’ get through to final document

The final version of the new GCSE combined science subject content published this week still has mistakes highlighted by a physics teacher more than a year ago.

Alex Weatherall, who teaches at David Young Community Academy in Leeds, said the GCSE subject content for teaching from 2016 repeated mistakes that he spotted in an earlier draft in April last year.

The errors include a wrong equation for kinetic energy, which Mr Weatherall said was “a clanger”. It also uses the term “gravity constant (g)” in an equation instead of the correct phrase “gravitational field strength”.

Mr Weatherall said: “What annoys me more than anything is the thought that this collection of subject-specific requirements for exam boards to assess and therefore for teachers to teach has been put together in such a slapdash way. For these mistakes to have happened in the first place meant the document definitely required improvement – but this final version is inadequate,” he said in a blog.

Vice chair of the Association for Science Education Richard Needham said exam regulator Ofqual checked exam board specifications against GCSE subject content. If the content as defined by government was incorrect, exam boards could write exam questions that reflected the incorrect information.

He also said the coalition had heralded the new combined science GCSE as increasing the level of challenge and raising attainment for pupils, “but to produce a document full of errors makes the more cynical of us think that they are not taking it seriously”.

A Department for Education (DfE) spokesperson said: “We are aware of Mr Weatherall’s comments, which have been considered by the scientific experts who helped develop the content. We are satisfied that it is accurate and stand by it.

“We are correcting a small number of proofing errors in the final document for the combined science GCSE. We apologise that these were not identified ahead of publication. “

Mr Weatherall told Schools Week: “The DfE has come up with the script for a new science-fiction film and this is the physics they are going to use in it. There is no sense of quality control in the production of this document. It’s as if they don’t really care about the detail.”