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Diversity and inclusion

Work together to encourage girls to do physics A-level: IOP

27 April 2022

Response to government commissioner’s comments on why more girls don’t study the subject after GCSE.

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The Institute of Physics (IOP) is alarmed by comments made by the government’s social mobility commissioner to MPs that more girls decide not to study A-level physics because they “don’t like” hard maths.

Responding to Katharine Birbalsingh’s claims to the science and technology committee inquiry on diversity and inclusion in STEM this morning, the IOP called for a move away from “outdated” views and suggested that there should instead be a united effort to encourage a range of youngsters to take up the subject.

IOP Deputy Chief Executive, Rachel Youngman, said: “The IOP is very concerned at the continued use of outdated stereotypes as we firmly believe physics is for everyone regardless of their background or gender.

“We need to listen to the experiences of young people before making assumptions which can further perpetuate the challenges they face in doing physics. Young people themselves, including many girls, tell us they face barriers to studying physics because of who they are rather than their ability.

“Removing the barriers that currently prevent girls, disabled young people, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, LGBT+ young people and ethnic minorities from doing physics requires a united effort from us all, including parents, teachers, the media and our governments.

“Outdated ideas need to be eradicated, all young people need to be encouraged to learn physics and other sciences and we need specialist teachers to provide this education.

“We at the IOP are already engaged in lots of conversations to bring this about.”

In England, around 22% of physics A-level students are female.

Through the Limit Less campaign, the IOP wants to support young people to change the world and fulfil their potential by doing physics.

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