Changes to science and languages in new Wales GCSEs puts pupils at 'disadvantage', says students

  • Report by ITV Wales reporter, Gwennan Campbell

Changes to GCSEs in Wales, which include fewer science and literature qualifications, puts pupils at a "disadvantage", says some youngsters.

Students studying science at a Y Pant Comprehensive School in Pontyclun have spoken out about their concerns over the new GCSE curriculum in Wales.

Qualifications Wales announced that 26 new and updated GCSEs are being introduced with changes to the content of qualifications and the way they are assessed.

One of the biggest changes is that pupils will no longer study and sit three separate science GCSEs, instead they will either take a double or a single combined science award.

Some of the changes include fewer science and literature qualifications.

How do pupils feel about the changes?

Some six form pupils from Y Pant Comprehensive School told ITV Wales that they feel the changes to the science qualification would put them at a "disadvantage".

One pupil said: "I feel as though it makes us less competitive to students from other countries and it makes applying to Universities a lot harder for us because we don't have as much knowledge before A Levels, and then if they were to look at GCSEs, we're then at a disadvantage."

"Because I did triple science, if I hadn't done it it would be a disadvantage at A Level because there's a lot of base knowledge from triple science that really helps at A Level and making Welsh people not do triple would definitely make it a lot harder for all of us in doing A Levels science" said another pupil.

Another pupil said: "While I'm glad that they've introduced more creative subjects and more industrial subjects for people who may not be so strong in academics to choose, I think it's really important that everyone gets a choice and that people who are good in science also get a choice.

A sixth form science pupil said it's important those who are good in science "also get a choice".

She added: "Not everyone is creative and I think people who want to go into science, a lot of them know that they want to go into science and they want to expand their knowledge further and triple science is really good at doing that."

While another said: "I think it's quite a negative thing. I understand that they are trying to level the playing field for Welsh students but they're doing this by reducing opportunities for lots of people who are focused on the science subjects."

"All three sciences are different and I feel to gain a deep enough respect and understanding for the science individually, you need to study them individually - especially to the extent where you then want to go on and study it."

Pupils will start studying the new subjects from September 2025.

Learners currently in Year 7 aged 11 and 12 who will be in Year 10 in September 2025 will be the first pupils to study the new GCSEs and will sit the exams in 2027.

What are the changes?

  • A new combined single award or combined double award GCSE in the sciences (pupils will no longer study biology, physics and chemistry separately, but instead do one combined science qualification).

  • English language and English literature will combine into one qualification.

  • Welsh language and Welsh literature will combine into one qualification.

  • Pupils will have the option of taking a double GCSE or a less demanding single grade GCSE in English, Welsh, maths and the sciences.

  • New GCSEs including digital media and film, dance, British Sign Language, engineering and Health and Social Care (these will be first taught from September 2026).

  • More digital and on-screen assessments

Emyr George, Director of Qualifications Policy and Reform at Qualifications Wales,has defended the changes and says they will offer schools "more choice and flexibility."

"They will include completely updated content and assessment that will give plenty of opportunities for learners to engage with the themes of the new curriculum and to realise the four purposes that are at the heart of the curriculum", He said.

The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said: “This announcement from Qualifications Wales is the result of extensive engagement with educators over the last three years and represents an important next step in the roll-out of the Curriculum for Wales.

"The new GCSEs provide certainty to practitioners, learners and parents.

"We will work together to support schools through this change.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...