Aim: To assess the impact of how the study of GCSE Astronomy motivates students to fulfil their potential in Triple Science.

Background: In preparation an Astronomy course was set up, an exam board chosen and the course publicised to students and parents. CPD on the GCSE was undertaken at Liverpool University, including remote telescopes on the island of La Palma.


Year 1: The Astronomy GCSE course was taught (in one year), and remote logins for the Telescope in La Palma were set up for students. Access to uninsurable moon rock and asteroid samples was organised and pictures taken of the moon at particular phases so students could calculate the depth of craters based upon the shadows they cast into the basin. An Astronomy day was organised for all students on the day of the near total eclipse.

Year 2: It was not possible to offer Astronomy GCSE due to limited staffing and curriculum time available. CPD on the new Science GCSE was run for non-specialists internally by lead practitioners and by external providers.

Year 3: Analysis of former students of Triple Science and Astronomy GCSE was conducted.

Evidence: Student and staff surveys, exam results.

Impact: 12% of students who took Triple Science alone achieved A* vs 42% of students taking both GCSEs. This trend continued with 47% of students taking Triple only attaining A*-A whilst 75% of those taking Triple and Astronomy did. To counter the issue of potentially more able students taking Astronomy skewing the data FFT (Fischer Family Trust) Aspire data was studied; students who took both GCSEs were achieving an average of over a third of a grade higher than their FFTd whereas students taking Triple alone were underperforming to just under a half a GCSE grade compared to their FFTd.

Feedback from Astronomy students (at the end of their GCSE prior to results) was overwhelmingly positive; students rated Astronomy as higher than Science, with the exception of real life links, enhanced career prospects and the (demanding) coursework required. Survey data collected from former students now at sixth forms or colleges showed that a larger proportion of Astronomy students had taken more STEM based subjects at A Level or equivalent than their Triple Science counterparts. A larger proportion of Astronomy students were planning on taking post-graduate qualifications and/or STEM based careers.

Feedback from the new Science GCSE training was particularly good especially amongst the NQTs and the non-specialists.

Reflections: Combining Astronomy with Science, in particular Triple Science, benefits the students’ results greatly. Running this entirely by myself with a full timetable was extremely challenging but allowed me to grow as a practitioner. There was convincing evidence that taking Astronomy pushes students to take STEM based subjects at A Level and beyond.

Contact: Fergus Lear,