Dr Michael de Podesta is a physicist and Science Ambassador at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory
Last week I attended a meeting organised by QCDA. They were apparently ‘seeking input’ from working physicists into the revised Physics GCSE curriculum. However it soon became clear that no such input was genuinely desired.
Staff from the QCDA asserted that ‘Physics was no harder than any other subject’, specifically mentioning Religious Studies as a subject of equal difficulty. They also asserted that acknowledged problems with the Physics GCSE curriculum were not the responsibility of the QCDA but were ‘caused by physicists’ - I never understood quite how. I summarised the meeting for my colleagues by saying that the lunatics had taken over the asylum.
Physics is harder than some other subjects. It requires practical and theoretical skills, a good memory, conceptual flexibility and mathematical insight. This combination of skills and knowledge is what makes Physics both valuable and difficult. However it is clear that QCDA intend to create a GCSE exam for Physics which actively discriminates against the people that physicists think are good at physics.
The mechanism for this involves publisher/awarding body conglomerates submitting schemes of work which minimally satisfy QCDA guidelines. Despite the input of many talented and creative individuals in schools and awarding bodies alike, this structure is guaranteed to lower standards. It is a race to the bottom: the awarding body which can produce the minimum specification with the easiest examinations will win ‘market share’ from their competitors and exam pass rates will ‘rise’. This is madness.