At least 15 schools to snub GCSE science exam

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The schools are planning instead to opt for the international version of the exam, which is more in line with old-fashioned O-levels. Dr Martin Stephen, High Master of St Paul's School in London, said the GCSE had become too "consumer-based" and had "a terrifying absence of proper science".

The new GCSE exam is to be introduced in September 2006. Dr Stephen said: "The new specifications move it over virtually completely to computer science. It is no preparation for A-level."

He said that the type of questions being considered for the exam included: (i) how would you organise setting up a colony on Mars?; and (ii) point out the drawbacks of using an aerosol spray.

He said the GCSE was in danger of "ruining" the country's science base and would lead to a reduction in the number of British candidates opting to study the subject at university level.

Leading universities would be forced to admit more overseas candidates who were more highly advanced in the subject. One university is already understood to have cut the number of British students it recruits to a quarter of its intake.

News of the schools' decision comes just two days after it was revealed that Manchester Grammar School was not going to use the GCSE maths exam because teachers feared it had become too easy. The school is understood to be one of 40 independent schools considering a switch to international GCSEs in one subject or another.