Girls in physics

Girls are under-represented in physics post-16 across the UK.

girls enjoying a physics class

For more than 25 years, only around 20% of students progressing on to A-level physics have been girls, despite about equal success between the genders in GCSE physics and science.

The issue is one that the Institute has been seeking to understand and address for a number of years, both by supporting research and helping individual teachers of physics become aware of the issues and amend their classroom practice.

Research has shown that:

  • Students’ interest in science declines as they progress through school and the decline appears to become steeper after age 14, particularly for girls and particularly in physics.
  • Girls, more than boys, experience a difference between their personal goals for learning and the learning objectives of the physics curriculum. As a consequence they are less inclined to opt for physics, even if they achieve high grades and enjoy the subject.

The key influences on students’ attitudes to physics have been identified as:

  • Self-concept – that is, students’ sense of themselves in relation to the subject; the value they place on the subject and their willingness to engage with it;
  • Views of physics – that is, how students experience physics at school;
  • Teacher-student relationships – that is, how personally supportive students find their physics teacher.

For further information on research and resources on girls in physics, please click on the links on the left-hand menu.