MIXED SCHOOLS NO BARRIER TO GIRLS’ SCIENCE STUDY SENIOR TEACHER INSISTS
A senior teacher at a Derbyshire co-educational independent school has dismissed suggestions that girls are more likely to study sciences at A-Level if they attend a single-sex school.
An Institute of Physics (IOP) report recently found that 49% of state co-educational schools in England did not send any girls to study physics at A-level in 2011 and that girls are two-and-a-half times more likely to study A-level physics if they came from a girls' school.
Peter Kelly, Deputy Head (Academic) at Trent College school in Long Eaton, revealed that for the past two years almost half of the school's Sixth Form girls have studied at least one science subject at A-level, with a quarter of this year's Physics intake being female.
Mr Kelly believes it is dangerous to make simple generalisations as to why more girls don't study science subjects nationally.
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He said: "All the sciences are subjects which open doors to exciting higher education and career opportunities. We want to keep those doors as wide open as possible for all our students, regardless of gender. That starts with enthusing younger pupils in the lower school to realise science isn't just a 'boys' subject' so by the time they come to choose their A-level subjects they appreciate the huge opportunities that exist in the sciences post-Sixth Form and have the tools and resources to make the most of those.
"It is outdated to simply see certain subjects as 'masculine' or 'feminine' and suggest peer pressure plays too telling a role as to why girls apparently don't go on to study A-level science subjects. It is about ensuring a school's culture provides a supportive environment in which subjects are seen for the opportunities they provide and not for any gender connotations they may have. We have worked hard on this and it is why by the time our girls come to choosing their A-levels, nothing feels alien about selecting a science."
In 2011 45% of the school's Sixth Form girls took at least one science subject and in 2012 that figure has risen to 48.7%.
Meanwhile a major grant from leading science charity is helping support Trent College students realise their science ambitions.
The school recently received £18,000 from the Wolfson Foundation, which allocates approximately £2m each year to schools and Sixth Form colleges who are achieving a level $of excellence, to invest in Physics equipment.
The Wolfson Foundation grant is being invested in university laboratory-level equipment so that A-level students can undertake extension projects alongside their studies and boost the chances of even more Trent College students – both male and female – going on to study science-based courses at the UK's top universities.
Dr John Morley, Head of Physics at Trent College, said: "Last year our A-level Physics students secured 56% A*-B grades and these new experiment sets will allow us to stretch and challenge our most able pupils. It is also exciting as the very theoretical elements are able to become hands on."
In addition, part of the grant has been allocated to sports science, a cross-curricular subject mainly aimed at Year 7 and Year 9 pupils. The programme is designed to develop pupils' understanding of Physics through sport – the science of biomechanics - teaching pupils how they can put classroom theory into practice to optimise their sporting performance.