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Closing Doors

Exploring gender and subject choice in schools

2015-06-15
"More than four out of five state-funded co-educational schools, on average, do no better than national gender ratios, which are themselves very imbalanced. Almost half the schools (49%) have imbalances greater than the national figures"

Closing Doors

Exploring gender and subject choice in schools

Closing Doors

The purpose of this statistical study was to ascertain whether there are any patterns of bias in subject choices and whether schools tend to conform to traditional perceptions of some subjects being "girls" subjects and others "boys" subjects. One of the questions we wanted to answer is whether schools that send relatively more girls on to A-level physics also have a smaller gender imbalance in other subjects (both for boys and girls), perhaps reflecting the school culture. 

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Main Points

  1. The gender balance in progression to A-level physics in co-educational state-funded schools correlates strongly with the gender balance in progression to all six A-level subjects investigated for this report. 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.
  2. More than four out of five state-funded co-educational schools, on average, do no better than national gender ratios, which are themselves very imbalanced. Almost half the schools (49%) have imbalances greater than the national figures.
  3. Schools with sixth forms have smaller gender imbalances in progression to these six A-level subjects than those without a sixth form, with 46% of schools with a sixth form doing worse than the national ratios, compared with 55% of schools without a sixth form.
  4. An implicit finding is that single-sex schools are significantly better than co-educational schools at countering the gender imbalances in progression to these six subjects. It's Different for Girls (October 2012) showed this effect clearly in relation to physics and the other sciences.
  5. The co-educational independent sector, although small, performs better than the state-funded sector, with 33% of schools having better than average gender imbalances in progression to these six A-level subjects, compared with only 19% of state-funded schools.
  6. There are significant differences between regions and between local authorities. Further work is required to understand these differences.
  7. There appears to be no strong correlation between gender imbalance in progression to A-levels and the percentage of students on free school meals, or the school's size as measured by the number of pupils at the end of Key Stage 4.
  8. Despite the general picture painted by this report, a small number of schools do show that it is possible to counteract gender imbalances in progression to A-levels and that schools that actively address the issues can reduce the impact of gender stereotyping. 
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Source: IOP
"More than four out of five state-funded co-educational schools, on average, do no better than national gender ratios, which are themselves very imbalanced. Almost half the schools (49%) have imbalances greater than the national figures"

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