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Education and outreach

Wales' Education Minister visits Monmouth Improving Gender Balance school

31 January 2020

Kirsty Williams reviewed the success of the school's participation in the Institute of Physics programme, as the scheme nears the end of its one-year pilot.

Kirsty Williams, Welsh Minister for Education, visited Monmouth Comprehensive School last week to see for herself how the school, which is a participant in the Institute of Physics (IOP) Improving Gender Balance (IGB) programme in Wales, is working to ensure gender balance equality.

kirsty williams visits monmouth comprehensive school wales

Kirsty Williams meets students from Monmouth Comprehensive School, Wales

Girls made up fewer than a quarter (23%) of all physics A-level students across Wales in the 2018-19 school year and the programme, which is funded by the Welsh government and the Waterloo Foundation, seeks to address this by identifying and addressing how gender stereotypes manifest in education and impact on subject choices.

The factors differ from school to school, so the IOP provides a local Gender Balance Coach, who identifies areas for improvement and tailors bespoke support packages for each participating school, according to their needs.

The programme, which has run since April 2019, is coming to the end of its first-year pilot. It has worked with two clusters of secondary schools, and a selection of their feeder primary schools.

The coaches used feedback from staff and pupils, examined school policies, and studied each school’s environment to analyse its gender balance profile.

Bespoke interventions were developed in the autumn term, and commenced in the current spring term. They can include elements such as inclusive-teaching workshops and attendance by IOP Coaches at parents’ evenings, enabling them to get an even better picture of the school’s needs and how it is improving.

Kirsty Williams said: “Challenging preconceptions of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects, including gender stereotyping, need to start at a very early age, so it is essential we engage all learners in science and technology as early as possible.

“I am pleased to support the IOP programme to actively support more girls to study and then pursue careers in STEM subjects.

“The benefits of more girls studying physics and other STEM subjects are clear – it’s good for our education system, good for our economy and good for wider society. You could say it’s not rocket science!”

She will be meeting with representatives of Monmouth Comprehensive School, the feeder primary schools also participating in the IGB project, and with IOP director of policy, Tony McBride, to learn about the school’s areas for improvement, the best practice learned so far and the interventions being implemented in the current spring term.

IGB project manager for the IOP in Wales, Samantha Borley, said: “Gender imbalance across a range of subjects, including physics, is a significant issue for schools in Wales, with far-reaching consequences for society.

“We are delighted to welcome the minister to Monmouth Comprehensive to witness the project in action and learn about the ways we not only reveal the reasons for gender imbalance in each school, but also understand the positive impact our bespoke interventions can have.”