Athene Donald, Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge, recently published an article in The Guardian on 'Closing Doors', a new report by the Institute of Physics, which demonstrates that the majority of schools don't do enough to counter prevailing gender stereotypes.
The Closing Doors report from IOP found that nearly half of co-educational state-funded schools (49%) are actually making the gender imbalance in these subjects worse, but the small number of schools (19%) that send on relatively more girls to do A-level physics also have a smaller gender imbalance in progression to other subjects.
It follows that whatever factors limit the progression of girls to A-level physics in a school are likely to depend on the whole school environment.
Professor Donald wrote in her article for The Guardian :
"Looking at how schools tackle the more formal aspects of education it is clear that here too sexism is prevalent. The report launched today by the IOP entitled Closing Doors shows that the majority of schools fail to encourage subject choices in a gender neutral way.
Boys are less likely to take stereotypically girls' subjects such as psychology or English, whereas girls are opting not to take physics or economics A-level, stereotypically identified as "for boys". This is not good news. Our children should be free to choose to study what really excites them, not subtly steered away from certain subjects because teachers believe in and propagate the stereotypes.
Last year the IOP published a report It's Different for Girls which demonstrated that essentially half of state coeducational schools did not see a single girl progress to A-level physics. By contrast, the likelihood of girls progressing from single sex schools were two and a half times greater."
The report recommends that:
School accountability measures should include an indicator of gender imbalance in progression to A-level and other post-16 qualifications. Ofsted should require schools to monitor and counter gender imbalance in progression, participation and achievement.
Schools should reflect on their own statistics and put in place whole-school measures to counter gender stereotyping.
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