Physics for boys and English for girls? Top head speaks out on gender stereotypes
ROLE models, supportive parents and good careers advice are key to ending the concept of “boy” and “girl” subjects, according to the head of Bolton’s top school.
A report by the Institute of Physics found that 49 per cent of co-educational secondary schools are strengthening the gender divide — with just 19 per cent actively bridging the gap by explaining the universal appeal of all subjects.
Philip Britton, head of Bolton School boys’ division and the Vice President (Education) of Institute of Physics (IoP) said the report left schools facing a “stark choice”.
The report analysed pupils’ move from GCSE to A-level and found that maths, economics and physics were traditionally male-dominated and biology, psychology and English were favoured by girls.
Researchers suggested almost half of all state schools are doing too little to counter the stereotypical reputation of subjects.
Mr Britton said: “The IoP, in the context of physics for girls, has produced some excellent real data on the serious issue with gender imbalance in schools subject choices.
“There is a stark choice for schools — either we just assume that these gender imbalances must always be or we address them strongly and with serious intent.
“There is little point in wondering why there is gender imbalance in the work place if actually it all starts in school subject choice.
“Can we really think of good reasons why English is for girls and physics for boys?”
Mr Britton suggested their was a link between the gender issues and raising academic aspiration in the borough.
He added: “At Bolton School we know the issue can be addressed — with our best of both worlds having single sex schools on the same campus — we see very many fewer gender stereotypes.
“It is fine for girls to study physics and boys to study English.
“However most schools are mixed and so solutions must be found to make a difference in that environment as well.
“Strong role models, the support of parents and good careers advice are key.
“Also there is a clear link between these gender imbalances and the general issue of raising academic aspirations across Bolton.”
Mr Britton concluded: “Boys and girls must think big about their futures in general and certainly not be confined by gender stereotype in subject choices.”
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