Letter: Lack of demand inhibits supply of science graduates

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The Independent Online
Sir: The current decline in entries for A-level sciences was predictable and predicted. From the moment Margaret Thatcher personally rejected Higginson it was certain that post-16 specialisation would continue. A/S-levels have done little more than divert some attention from the true issue - A-level options that limit degree choices.

Many students who opt for the humanities or languages at A-level would prefer to continue with maths and science were it realistic to do so under the A-level system. The International Baccalaureate and the Scottish Highers make this balance possible. Sevenoaks School, which offers both IB and A-level, could provide useful data on breadth and choice.

A-level is still seen as the gold standard of post-16 education in England and Wales - and rightly so - but if Higginson were revived, with more rigorous syllabuses approved by the universities, standards could be maintained. Under such a system very few able students would be excluded from opting for science degree courses.

Able sixth-formers often admit that they abandoned science because they found GCSE science lacking in challenge. By the time they are 18 it is too late to regret that decision. Their life chances have been affected and the universities are short of good scientists.

Yours faithfully,

BILL DONALDSON

Edinburgh

19 August

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