Our previous work indicates that to address the gender imbalance in physics A-level take up, we need to look beyond the science department to the different experiences that girls and boys are subject to during their time in education and how that impacts on their subject choices. From 2014-2016, a team of Project Officers worked with 20 Partner Schools to identify and address issues around gender and subject choice.
Working with girls at KS3-4 directly to build confidence and resilience.
Working with teachers of physics to enhance the experience of girls in the classroom.
Working with senior leaders, pupils and teachers across all subjects on equality and whole school culture.
Our recent pilot projects investigated what changes schools can make to address inequality throughout the school, with good results. The Drayson pilot schools saw the proportion of girls in their physics classes increase from 10% to 27% over three years (the national average has been hovering in the low twenties for the last twenty years).
Building on the activities trialled in the pilot project, we are supporting schools to make similar changes that can contribute to an uptake of girls studying physics, with the Stimulating Physics Network. The Stimulating Physics Network offers each partners school the direct support of a teaching and learning coach (TLC) and the optional support of a gender balance officer (GBO).
Research shows that students can get different feedback or treated differently dependent on their gender in the science classroom. Boys tend to dominate teacher time and girls hang back from practical work. TLCs can help highlight ways to overcome this and ensure each student gets a positive classroom experience.
What is the gender balance of your extracurricular science club? There are activities that are more inclusive, like the science ambassador scheme. We can help train your students to develop science outreach workshops for your primary feeder schools, with benefits to both the confidence of your students and for the relationships with those schools. Find out more.
Our GBOs can offer support and advice on a whole school programme to raise awareness of gender stereotyping, and how unconscious bias can govern our thinking and behaviour. This can include auditing current practice and progression in your school, staff training and ideas to stimulate discussion between teachers and students.
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The IOP has published a number of reports exploring the factors affecting girls’ subject choice, as well as producing a range of resources and guidance for teachers. These are available to download from the IOP website, or from Teaching and Learning Coaches:
Around 50 teachers and Project Officers shared their results and experiences at the 2016 IGB conference. Access the conference materials, and take a look at this crowd-sourced resource from the event - teachers' messages to their former and future selves on improving gender balance in schools.