Closing Doors: Exploring gender and subject choice in schools

An Institute of Physics Report December 2013

Closing Doors: Exploring gender and subject choice in schools

Closing Doors: Exploring gender and subject choice in schools (PDF, 1.3 MB)

This report uses the National Pupil Database to look at progression to a number of gendered A-level subjects from co-educational schools. The six chosen subjects form comparable pairs:

● English and mathematics – both core subjects at GCSE;
● biology and physics – two of the sciences;
● psychology and economics – A-level subjects not normally taught in earlier years.

Main Points include:

Nearly half of co-educational state-funded schools (49%) are actually making the gender imbalance in these subjects worse, but the small number of schools (19%) that send on relatively more girls to do A-level physics also have a smaller gender imbalance in progression to other subjects.

It follows that whatever factors limit the progression of girls to A-level physics in a school are likely to depend on the whole school environment.

Recommendations include:

  1. School accountability measures should include an indicator of gender imbalance in progression to A-level and other post-16 qualifications. Ofsted should require schools to monitor and counter gender imbalance in progression, participation and achievement.
  2. Schools should reflect on their own statistics and put in place whole-school measures to counter gender stereotyping.
    To request a print copy of the report email education@iop.org