Increasing uptake of science post-16

01 July 2006

Why do we need to increase uptake of the sciences at A-level? Evidence shows that these qualifications may offer many young people signifi cant personal benefits, that they are crucial for the future competitiveness of the UK economy, and that our education system is not fully promoting equal opportunities in these subjects.

In addition, the speed with which young people mature beyond 16 means that engagement with science after this age can yield signifi cant advances in their understanding of the subject in relation to their adult roles as UK and global citizens, their personal decision-making in an increasingly technological world, and their appreciation of their cultural heritage. Although the importance of the sciences is recognized by the public, government, industry and even young people themselves, persistent decreases in the popularity of chemistry and physics have been recorded despite an increase in the overall number of 16 year olds continuing into A-level studies. As we enter a period of decline in the secondary school population, this situation may get worse and increasingly impact on the numbers of students taking the sciences, and subjects which rely on the sciences, in higher education. In today’s education market, the future of these subjects in schools, colleges and universities is dependent on healthy, consistent levels of demand among young people. Any further erosion of these subjects will place our sciencebased economy in serious risk of being over-reliant on expertise from overseas, and lacking the capacity to lead and innovate.