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'Tougher' GCSE science papers call

This summer's GCSE science papers were still too easy, the head of England's exams regulator has warned.

More work is needed to toughen up the qualification and rectify inconsistent standards between exam boards, according to Isabel Nisbet, chief executive of Ofqual.

In an interview with the Times Educational Supplement (TES) she said that there had been a "collective falling short of the standards that young people and teachers have a right to expect".

The standard of GCSEs in science and additional science had been a cause for concern for the watchdog over the past two years.

In March last year, Ofqual published a highly critical assessment of the qualifications taken by students in 2007 and 2008.

The exams, which were introduced for the first time in 2006, failed to challenge the brightest pupils, and contained too many multiple choice papers, it said.

And just last month, an updated report looking at last year's entries, found there was still "evidence that standards are currently too low". In one case, students only needed six marks to score a C on a paper, it found.

Speaking to the TES this week, Ms Nisbet said: "If you asked me 'Is GCSE science good enough?' I think the answer would be 'No'." She added: "I think we have made some progress in toughening up the standards and reducing the disparities but we still have a bit to go."

Around 802,000 pupils sat GCSEs in science and additional science this year, down from around 890,000 in 2009.

The drop comes at the same time as a rise in the numbers of pupils taking separate GCSEs in biology, chemistry and physics.


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