Teaching Triple Science

By Marianne Cutler

Triple sciences at GCSE are an increasingly popular option with young people and the number of schools and colleges which are successfully delivering triple sciences continues to rise.

Chemistry Demonstration

Chemistry Demonstration

I’ve been working with a number of schools and colleges to produce case studies on how they have successfully implemented triple science, exploring some of the barriers and challenges they overcame on the way, and some of the opportunities they capitalised on when putting together their programmes.

The barriers and solutions for each setting were often different according to their circumstances but the barriers could be broadly characterised as:

  • a lack of curriculumtime with appropriate pathways and curriculum choices for students
  •  a lack of specialist teachers with experience of teaching triple science extension units
  •  students lacking aspiration and aptitude, sometimes due to having few good role models or ineffective teaching including a lack of understanding of the role, value and effective delivery of practical work.

Across all the case study schools, there were some common success features, including a clearly articulated vision and model for providing a full and truly differentiated curriculum with defined progression pathways to meet the needs of all learners, and an understanding of the benefits to learners and teachers of triple science as part of the curriculum model. Additionally the case study schools all benefit from strong leadership through the head of science and support from the senior leadership team, in implementing their curriculum model.

Thirdly, all take care to support both their non-specialist and specialist teachers in developing their confidence, expertise and ownership to deliver the triple science units effectively. This has the additional benefit of energising teaching staff and helps improve retention. Fourthly, the case study schools all make considerable efforts to support and guide individual students in their option choices so that those embarking on triple science have the right aptitude as well as ability to succeed, and they understand the career pathways available to them.

If you are considering offering triple science, take a look at the case studies which cover some different curriculum and timetabling models including collaborative approaches by a range of schools and other organisations working together. The case studies are on the National STEM library website:

http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/resource/5609/triple-science-case-study-curriculum-model-and-timetabling

http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/resource/5606/triple-science-case-study-curriculum-models

http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/resource/5612/triple-science-case-study-collaborative-approaches

The case studies also cover student selection, the role of leadership and appropriate CPD in preparing for implementation, and the role of high quality practical work in increasing attainment.

http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/resource/5608/triple-science-case-study-cpd-and-effective-guidance

http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/resource/5610/triple-science-case-study-leadership-and-cpd

http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/resource/5607/triple-science-case-study-leadership-and-review

http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/resource/5611/triple-science-case-study-student-selection-and-valuing-practical-work

Additionally, I found these video clips useful;  featuring Headteachers, senior leaders and heads of science plus students talking about the benefits of triple science, the challenges, and different implementation models.  They can be found as a Triple Science video playlist on the Science Learning Centres YouTube channel.

The network of Science Learning Centres run a range of triple science continuing professional development courses across all regions.

If you would like further advice developing your triple science offer, or would like to share your own triple science case study, please contact me at mariannecutler@ase.org.uk or open up the conversation here on the comments section, as I am sure your queries and thoughts will interest many others.

4 Responses

  1. Really good post Marianne, I’m sure lots of teachers will find the videos especially helpful

  2. Really enjoyed this Marianne, and did you know we have also launched the triple science online communities now

    https://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/myaccount/search?s=triple+science&type=all-groups

  3. The system in Kenya (?) was that everyone had the same number of hours of science on their timetable. The brightest/most enthusiastic took triple, the next group took biology and P+C (nowadays, double award) and the rest took general science, allowing all to keep their science studies broad and balanced.
    The two problems with triple vis-a-vis double award is that the nature of science tends to be downplayed and the links between the sciences are often lost (eg photosynthesis – physics of light, chemistry of oxygen, and biology – plants/phytoplancton).

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