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Sixth Forms Without Physics or Maths, part 2: School size and small physics classes

In this, the second instalment of a four-post mini-series on the issue of school sixth forms that don’t enter any students for AS- or A-level physics, I would like to share just two graphs with you: one on school size and one on schools with small physics classes.

I split up the 2,591 English school sixth forms into five almost-equally sized groups (quintiles) based on the number of students entered for AS- or A-levels. Of the 235 school sixth forms that had no entries to physics, 188 were in the smallest size quintile (quintile one). Outside of the smallest two quintiles, only nine school sixth forms out of 1543 had no entries to physics.

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Shown in the graph below is the fact that 454 school sixth forms have between one and five students entered for AS-level physics. This strongly suggests that this will need revisiting in the coming years, just so we can see whether these school sixth forms still have any entries at all. There are also 780 school sixth forms with between one and five entries to A-level physics.

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These two graphs show us that small school sixth forms are those at risk of having no students entered for AS- or A-level physics, and there are a great number of school sixth forms out there with small physics classes. I would assume that the schools with small physics classes today are those at risk of becoming the schools with no entries of tomorrow. Future work I would like to do in this area would be to identify the rates at which this occurs, and the school conditions that are precursors to the change.

In the meantime, we should consider what can be done to ensure that more school sixth forms don’t go the way of the 235 with no physics entries.

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