Dismantling barriers to inclusion in physics
The IOP knows that many young people are put off studying physics after the age of 16, not because of a lack of ability or interest in the subject, but because of prevailing social attitudes that discourage them. This must change. Limit Less is the campaign that aims to encourage and support young people to change the world and fulfil their potential by doing physics.
The Limit Less campaign is the main way we are campaigning to effect change and increase participation in post-16 physics by currently under-represented and underserved groups. The campaign is not directly aimed at young people themselves. Instead, it is aimed at people who younger people trust and listen to, and who help to shape their opinions and decisions.
We campaign in the places and spaces where young people are exposed to these different influences – in their homes and communities, their schools, and in the media and on social media. We also oversee several diversity projects in education.
- The Whole School Inclusion and Equity network in Wales is a project funded by Welsh government building on the successes of the Improving Gender Balance (Wales) pilot.
- Our termly TeachMeets in Wales explore the use of building the Science Capital Teaching Approach as a vehicle to improve inclusion and equity for key under-represented groups of students, as identified by each school. The network welcomes schools, teachers and other stakeholders at a primary and secondary level – to register interest in the project, please contact [email protected].
- Improving Gender Balance (England) was a national research trial, funded by the Department for Education and led by the IOP in partnership with UCL Institute of Education. The intervention phase of this project came to an end in March 2021. Results from the research are due to be published in 2024.
- Gender Action is an award programme for nurseries, schools and colleges which promotes and supports a whole-school approach to challenging stereotypes. Gender Action is managed by the Development Education Centre South Yorkshire (DECSY) and overseen by founding partners – the IOP, King’s College London, UCL Institute of Education and the University Council of Modern Languages. The mayor of London funded the pilot year (PDF, 2.28MB) in 2019. You can access resources to combat gender stereotyping from posters to toolkits.
Here are some of our former projects:
- Improving Gender Balance and Drayson pilots. The Improving Gender Balance (IGB) project was launched in 2014 and ran until 2016, looking at factors beyond physics and testing different interventions in schools and comparing them against one another. Over the same period, a pilot project funded by the Drayson Foundation investigated the cumulative impact of multiple interventions on the progression of girls to physics beyond the age of 16.
- Improving Gender Balance Scotland. IOP ran a three-year (2015-2018) IGB Scotland pilot, in partnership with Skills Development Scotland and Education Scotland. The pilot worked with six school clusters: each cluster consisted of a secondary school and its associated primary schools and early learning and childcare centres. Read the final evaluation of the IGB Scotland pilot (PDF, 630KB). The Scottish government has recognised the benefits of the approach, and has asked for the learning from the pilot to be rolled out across Scotland. A team of six officers, based within Education Scotland, have started to work regionally, with an aim of embedding the learning from the pilot across all early years centres, and primary and secondary schools, by 2022.
- Improving Gender Balance Ireland. In Ireland, typically only 13-14% of students choose to study physics at upper second level and complete the Leaving Certificate Physics examination and of this cohort only 25-26% are girls. Improving Gender Balance in Ireland was a three-year national collaborative project led by CASTeL at Dublin City University, in partnership with the IOP and Science Foundation Ireland. Read the final evaluation of the IGB Ireland project (PDF, 3.3MB). This study was carried out in collaboration with principals, teachers and students from seven second-level schools with the specific aims of enhancing science teachers’ approaches to the teaching and learning of physics in Junior Cycle science, increasing awareness of STEM careers and employing a whole-school approach to addressing unconscious bias and gender stereotyping, and building confidence and resilience for students.
Limit Less resources for educators
Educators and schools can champion inclusive teaching and remove barriers that exist for too many young people in education with our inclusive resources.
Reports and research
We’ve published several reports investigating the gender imbalance of physics A-level and issues around equality in education.
If you need any further information, please email [email protected].