Project to tackle stereotyping in subject choice launches in Scotland

18 December 2015

A project to challenge the belief that certain school subjects are “just for boys” or “just for girls” – Improving Gender Balance Scotland (IGB Scotland) – was launched on 9 December at a school in Ayr.

IGB Scotland

IGB Scotland is a partnership between the IOP, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and Education Scotland that aims to empower students, teachers and parents to tackle stereotyping in the choice of school subjects and careers. The IOP is running a similar Improving Gender Balance project in England, funded by the Department for Education.

IGB Scotland will operate in school clusters in five regions: South Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, Glasgow, Fife and West Lothian. Each cluster includes a secondary school and its associated primary, early learning and additional support needs settings.

The work in early years and primary schools will focus on preventing early bias in career choices, while in secondary schools a particular focus will be on students’ choices regarding science, technology, engineering and maths.

The project will include sessions with girls to build confidence and resilience, time with subject teachers to look at enhancing pupils’ experiences with science subjects and work with the wider school community, including parents.

Students from two participating schools in Ayr, Belmont Academy and Kincaidston Primary School, took part in the launch, which was hosted by Belmont Academy.

Kirsteen Campbell, SDS director of corporate services, said: “By involving the whole school community, we can empower pupils to make choices based on their interests and abilities alone, and help them to recognise the wealth of opportunity a STEM career in Scotland offers. IGB Scotland will help to create a pipeline of talent going into STEM careers and apprenticeships.”

Ian Menzies, senior education officer for science at Education Scotland, said: “Teachers across Scotland recognise that promoting gender equality in STEM subjects is crucially important. Many are rightly passionate about this issue and are looking for ways to address this complex problem, which has persisted for too long. This partnership will allow us to develop effective approaches which can be shared nationally.”

The IOP has initiated a number of projects and published resources to address the factors that lead to girls’ under-representation in physics. Its reports and publications include It’s Different for Girls: the influence of schools; Closing Doors: exploring gender and subject choice in schools; and Opening Doors: a guide to good practice in countering gender stereotyping in schools, which was based on an IOP project in 10 schools in England co-funded by  the Government Equalities Office and launched at the Opening Doors Conference in October.

Jessica Rowson, the IOP’s Girls into Physics project manager, said: “Clinging to gender stereotypes narrows young people’s life choices. By encouraging young people to discuss and challenge these stereotypes, we hope to break down these barriers and allow students to choose and excel in the subjects that they might not otherwise have chosen.”