Combined science GCSEs compromise deprived pupils careers in medicine, BMA warns

The doctors union is calling on all schools to offer triple science, a qualification which includes separate GCSEs in biology, chemistry and physics. The triple science GCSE scheme is favoured by the majority of medical schools and thus places those who are not offered the qualification at a disadvantage.

Figures show that 80 per cent of UK medical students come from just 20 per cent of the country’s schools. BMA analysis also found that fewer schools in deprived areas offered the sciences as three individual GCSEs, and lower number of pupils study the qualifications at schools that do.

For example, in Knowsley, Merseyside - an area with a high level of deprivation - 57.1 per cent of schools offer triple science, and only 11.4 per cent of students choose to study it.

Contrastingly, figures are much higher in Rutland, a more affluent area, where 36 per cent of students have taken triple science as a GCSE choice.

The BMA’s call for change has arisen after particle physicist and TV presenter Professor Brian Cox urged for a ‘shift back to the individual science GCSEs’, in a bid to allow the population a deeper understanding of science.

The doctors union has also proposed that medical schools should consider contextualising admissions, encouraging universities to take into account additional information such as the applicant’s school and the area the applicants grew up in.

It also suggests that medical schools should work with local secondary schools to identify student potential and provide students with access to courses and outreach schemes.

Charlie Bell, the BMA's Medical Students Committee co-chair, said: “The chance of becoming a doctor should not be limited because of the failure of some schools to offer the qualifications that pupils need to apply for medical school – and the failure of universities to alter grade requirements accordingly.

"All secondary schools should facilitate the triple science GCSE for those who request it.

"At a time when the government's decision to scrap educational maintenance grants will create further barriers to low-income students becoming doctors, it is vital that young people who wish to pursue medicine must be encouraged and supported, whatever their background."

Philip Smith, a gastroenterologist from London, was educated at an under-resourced comprehensive in Rochdale.

He said: "My school never had anybody interested in doing medicine – it was all very much a voyage of discovery for me and my mum and dad.

"As a doctor you have to be able to relate to people from all spectrums of life. If you just take doctors from one tier of society, they won't have a concept of what life is like for people who aren't from a privileged background."

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