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- Education Professionals
Lack of girls who want to study physics
The IOP study indicates that the situation is likely to be similar in schools across the UK. The research also shows that girls are much more likely to study A-level physics if they are in a girls' school.
An analysis of data from the national pupil database showed that 49% of state co-educational schools in England did not send any girls to study physics at A-level in 2011.
Girls were two-and-a-half times more likely to go on to study A-level physics if they came from a girls' school. The same is not true of other science subjects, suggesting that physics is uniquely stereotyped in many mixed schools as a boys' subject.
The study was of English schools because comparable data is not available from schools in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But the disparity and problems were likely to be largely similar, the IOP said.
It said that schools should be set targets by the government to increase the proportion of girls studying physics from the current national average of just one in five. It has also asked head teachers to challenge the misconception among teaching staff that physics is not for girls.
There has been a slight increase in the number of girls studying physics in recent years but this has been dwarfed by a more rapid increase in boys studying the subject.
Dr Heather Williams, a medical physicist working for the NHS and head of ScienceGrrl, an organisation trying to inspire more girls to study science, believes that while many attitudes toward women have changed across many areas of society, science, and physics in particular, remain stuck in the past.