A-level physics 'turns off' girls from studying subject

03/10/12

Lucy Clark and Lizzie Doyle

Sitting in their brightly coloured classroom, year 12 physics students are learning about fundamental particles.

There are 11 pupils in the class at Amersham School in Buckinghamshire but only two are girls, 16-year-olds Lucy Clark and Lizzie Doyle.

"I had ambitions of being a pilot, so having physics is good for that," says Lizzie. "I do enjoy the subject. It's not too difficult yet."

Lucy is enjoying the classes too.

"I want to be an architect, so the choice was either maths or physics and I preferred physics."

But according to a new report there aren't enough girls like Lucy and Lizzie studying physics.

The Institute of Physics (IOP) says nearly half of all state schools in England didn't send any girls on to A-level physics in 2011.

Lizzie says there might be a reason why.

"A lot of it is maths based and there's lots of mechanics. Girls tend to be interested in things like the solar system."

'Too difficult'

For friends Jody Trigg and Megan Paye, who are both aged 16, the subject just became too difficult to continue at A-level.

"It's a fun subject and I'm not put off by the fact there are more boys," says Megan. "I just found the maths bit hard."

Megan Paye and Jody Trigg
Image caption Megan and Jody found physics too difficult to continue to A-level

Jody adds: "Programmes like The Big Bang Theory and Professor Cox have helped.

"But it got difficult for me so I went for another option in the end."

The IOP wants to change that. They say in the last 20 years, the number of girls taking up the subject has been constantly at 20%.

Research shows that girls are two and a half times more likely to go on to to study A-level physics if they've come from a girls' school.

The Institute says doors to highly-paid jobs are being slammed shut to girls.

Kelly Gordon teaches science at Amersham School and also runs the science club there.

He says: "I agree we should be pushing more girls to go into science. We've certainly been doing that here and there has been an increase in interest.

"But you can only push so far because if it's not what someone wants to do, then they won't succeed."