Girls in physics
Girls are under-represented in physics post-16 across the UK.
For the last 20 years, only 20% of physics A-level students have been girls, despite about equal success between genders in GCSE physics and science.
In terms of choices, physics is the 19th most popular A-level subject for girls, but 4th most popular for boys. Clearly there is something about physics, or how it is perceived, that discourages girls.
It’s Different for Girls (published October 2012)
This report uses data from the National Pupil Database on those who took A-level physics in England in 2011 and links them to the schools where they sat their GCSEs. We wanted to see if the type of school where pupils sat their GCSEs had any impact on their progression to A-level physics. In most cases it is clear that the effect is ‘different for girls’ compared to that for boys.
The report includes recommendations to government and its agencies, to head teachers and to parents.
Main Findings from the report:
- 49% of maintained co-ed schools sent no girls on to take A-level physics in 2011. The figure for all secondary schools is 46%
- Girls were almost two and a half times more likely to go on to do A-level physics if they came from a girls’ school rather than a co-ed school (for all types of maintained schools in England)
- Twice the percentage of girls who went on to do A-level physics came from a school with a sixth form, compared to schools that only teach up to age 16 (for co-ed maintained schools in England)
- For maintained schools in England, the positive effect of single-sex education on girls’ choice of physics post-16 is not replicated in the other sciences
To see the report, click here: It's Different for Girls: The influence of schools (PDF, 2 MB)
We have also produced briefing sheets for senior school leaders and for parents with recommendations and other resources.
For senior school leaders: It's Different for Girls: How can senior leaders in schools support the take-up of A-level physics by girls? (PDF, 744 KB)
For parents: It's Different for Girls: How can parents support the take-up of A-level physics by girls? (PDF, 1 MB)
Aki Matsushima from Masterchef told us about studying for her PhD in cold temperature physics.
For further resources on girls in physics, please click on the links on the left-hand menu.