STEM Subjects: Girls

Department for Education written question – answered at on 15 February 2024.

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Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

To ask His Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to address the confidence gap between girls and boys studying STEM subjects at school.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Lords Spokesperson (Equalities)

The department supports a range of work to improve the uptake and attainment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects to give everyone, regardless of their background or where they live, the opportunity to pursue an education and career in STEM. To support this, the department has committed substantial funding to programmes designed to help facilitate this.

As part of the department’s significant investment in the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), the ‘I Belong’ programme is available to secondary schools. Focused on Key Stage 3, ‘I Belong’ aims to improve schools’ awareness of the barriers to girls’ engagement with computing and it is designed to support them to improve the take up of computer science qualifications within their school. This is in addition to the wider work of the NCCE to improve the quality of the teaching of computing across all key stages, through the provision of free teaching resources and high-quality continuing professional development.

The department also funds the Isaac Physics programme, an online platform of GCSE and A level physics materials developed by Cambridge University designed to increase the numbers of students, particularly from typically underrepresented backgrounds, studying physics in higher education.

Additionally, Maths Hubs deliver the department's Teaching for Mastery programme, which is bringing teaching practice from high performing East Asian jurisdictions to primary and secondary schools across England. The programme aims to reach 75% of primary schools and 65% of secondary schools by 2025. Mastery teaching is characterised by whole-class teaching, where all pupils are given equal access to the curriculum and they are encouraged with the belief that by working hard they can succeed.

The Advanced Mathematics Support Programme (AMSP) provides support for all teachers and students in England as well as additional, targeted support in areas of low social mobility so that, whatever their location, background or gender, students can choose their best post-16 mathematics pathway and access high-quality teaching. The AMSP has a particular focus on supporting girls into mathematics and runs a variety of enrichment and engagement sessions specifically for girls.

The department also supports the STEM Ambassadors programme which is a nationwide network of 30,000 registered volunteers from over 7,000 STEM and related employers. Last year, STEM Ambassadors spent 250,000 hours in primary and secondary schools across the UK raising awareness of the diverse range of STEM careers and enabling young people to explore and develop their skills and interest in STEM. Approximately 48% of Ambassadors are women and 17% are from minority ethnic backgrounds, providing young people with a variety of role models.

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