Top head: How to address gender imbalance in science
TOP class teaching and a willingness to address “gender bias issues” is the key to getting more girls to studying the vital STEM — science, technology, engineering and maths — subjects, according to the headteacher of Bolton’s best-performing school.
Philip Britton, headteacher of Bolton School and vice-president (Education) of the Institute of Physics (IOP), is part of a team working to address the lack of girls continuing to study the key subjects described as vital to the country’s future.
Education Minister Elizabeth Truss launched the “Your Life” campaign, which encourages more young people into maths and science, after figures showed that only two per cent of girls studied A-level physics, and a mere eight per cent took up maths.
Additionally, in half of all mixed state schools, no girls take physics A-level.
Mr Britton, who was awarded an MBE in the New Year's honours list for services to physics in 2009, said: “The single most important way to improve the nation’s supply of graduates in STEM subjects is to encourage the participation of girls.
“The IoP ‘Girls in Physics’ research is very clear about what is needed: a positive whole school attitude to gender bias issues with strong leadership; shifting the attitudes of parents who are influential in career choice; and first rate teaching so girls experience success.”
He concluded: “Each of these strands are currently being addressed in the IoP Stimulating Physics project funded by the Department for Education.”
Ms Truss said that for children to succeed in the “modern world”, they need maths and science.
She said: “The message is getting through.
“The majority of the public now think maths and science are important for young people’s careers — it was only 27 per cent in 2008.
“Record numbers of pupils are studying the sciences at GCSE and A- level — and almost as many girls as boys take GCSE physics. But despite these advances — the pipeline of talent is broken at the age of 16. ”
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