I've been asked to be part of a team looking into the quality of the new GCSE exams - seeing if they match up to the specs, if they are demanding enough etc. As part of my homework the Royal Society sent me a set of last summer's OCR Gateway papers to try.
I had a look at them and then thought I'd do an experiment. I gave the first foundation tier science paper to my son to do. Zach is 8, is in year 3 at school and almost knows what science is. I did have to read some of the longer words for him and I took oral rather than written answers (he hates writing). The paper consists of 20 marks for each of biology, chemistry and physics. Zach scored 12/20, 11/20,10/20 respectively giving 33/60 and a creditable D grade (37 for a C grade, the highest achievable on a foundation tier paper). The average mark for this paper nationally was 31.6/60, slightly below Zach's score.
Is this a case of fantastic genes, inherited from two parents with PhDs in physics? Maybe, but nothing in his school work suggests he's going to grow up as a man with a computerised voice in a wheelchair, or a fuzzy-haired, violin-playing odd-sock wearing icon of physics. The moral of this story is certainly not that Zach is some kind of science genius with pushy parents - he hasn't solved any of the basic equations of quantum mechanics as yet!
He even beat me in one question. Asked about the advantages of mobile phones being a form of wireless communications I failed to get the second point the examiners were looking for. I didn't say "They have no wires"...how stupid am I?