All-girl physics classes level the playing field

First published in News The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

AN all-girl South Lakeland school has welcomed a report which shows pupils in single-sex classes are more likely to study physics at A-Level.

Institute of Physics research showed girls attending same-sex schools were two-and-a-half times more inclined to take the subject after GCSEs.

And at Casterton School, near Kirkby Lonsdale, nearly a third of upper and lower sixth pupils opt to take the science further.

Physics teacher Mark Appleton said: “There are no gender stereotypes in an all-girls school so girls have the confidence to choose subjects that are otherwise more traditionally chosen by male students.

“Physics requires problem-solving skills and a methodical, systematic mindset. “This lends itself to the approach my students take to their study.” Staff believe their teaching methods and smaller class sizes counteract the “vast shortage” of UK graduates taking so-called ‘STEM’ subjects — science, technology, engineering and maths.

The lack of STEM-trained graduates suggests that those entering related industries could find their skills in demand, potentially presenting greater job opportunities, strong career prospects and higher salaries.

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A recent report from the Royal Academy of Engineering stated: “Engineering graduates not only command a significant wage premium, but this premium has been increasing year after year when the average graduate wage premium has been falling in the UK.”

In the past two years, following impresssive A-Level results, several Casterton School leavers have chosen related degree subjects in architecture, engineering and technology and some current sixth-formers have applied to study geo-physics and mechanical engineering such as Oxford.

Headmistress Maxine Lucas said “Physics remains a popular subject with Casterton girls, with 29 per cent of our upper and lower sixth students now taking physics A-Level. “Small class sizes and excellent teaching staff contribute to our girls’ success in this subject.

“We offer compelling angles on the study of physics, capturing girls’ imaginations far beyond the laboratory, such as visits to the Hadron Collider laboratory in Geneva and a School Astronomy Club.”

The independent school recorded strong A-Level results in August with three-quarters of students accepted by their first-choice of university.

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