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Following yesterday's announcement of GCSE results, the Society of Biology is encouraged to see that the number of students for biology has increased for another consecutive year, representing an on-going shift towards the separate sciences.

The results represent the first time that new qualifications in biology, chemistry, physics, additional science and additional applied science have been awarded, following changes to the GCSEs introduced for first teaching in September 2011. The new GCSEs are intended to be more challenging.

Further reforms are also being implemented, with more in the pipeline. From September 2012, GCSEs switched from a modular to linear structure across all subjects, and new GCSE science qualifications currently in development for first teaching in September 2015. These changes are happening in parallel to A-level reform.

Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society, said: "Whilst we are delighted to see an increase of 5% in the number of students sitting biology at GCSE, we continue to have concerns regarding the rapid pace of planned reforms. It is important that the impact of these changes is carefully monitored.

"It is essential that students with an interest in science are able to progress smoothly and successfully from GCSEs to A-levels and we remain disappointed that the Government is reforming the two qualifications via two different, and apparently disconnected, processes.

"The Society believes that increased rigour and challenge should be achieved by improving assessment schemes and assessment items rather than from increasing the amount or level of the specified content. The new qualifications must be underpinned by more functional, high-quality assessments that test students' problem solving, critical thinking and practical skills, alongside their ability to apply the knowledge they have acquired."

The Society recently responded, via SCORE, to the Department for Education consultation on reformed GCSE subject content. The response is available on the Society's website.

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