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STEM Subjects: Equality

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL7562, tabled on 29 July 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking, if any, to increase the diversity of students taking STEM subjects, in particular engineering.

Answered on

11 August 2020

We want all students to see science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) as potential career options, and the government is committed to ensuring that anyone, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to pursue a rewarding career in a STEM occupation. There are a growing number of girls taking STEM subjects at A level and the 2018/19 A Level results showed, for the first time, more girls taking science subjects than boys. Although proportionally fewer pupils from BAME groups take STEM A Levels, they perform well with 67.1% of entrants from BAME groups achieving A*-C in 2018/19. UK domiciled BAME students are also more likely to study STEM subjects in higher education than their white counterparts – 47% of BAME students were accepted to full-time STEM subjects in 2019/20 compared to 42% of white students.

However, we recognise there is more we can do, which is why we are building on that progress through the STEM Ambassadors programme, creating a network of Maths Hubs, and funding gender balance programmes in physics and computing to increase STEM take up amongst girls. In 2019/20, 45% of STEM Ambassadors were female and 15% were from BAME groups. This programme helps broaden pupils’ understanding of careers in science and engineering and how they can apply their individual skills and interests to different opportunities.

We are also funding the Institute of Physics to deliver the Improving Gender Balance research trial. This randomised control trial will scale up an approach that has shown significant early promise in increasing girls’ uptake of A level physics. Gender balance coaches will support girls’ resilience, tackle subject-specific teaching issues, and address whole school gender stereotyping.

The government is backing the New Model in Technology and Engineering (NMiTE) institute which has been established in Herefordshire to provide a world leading institution where students can learn engineering. NMiTE will take its first full cohort of students in 2020 and has a 50:50 gender balance recruitment target.

The government is also funding Institutes of Technology (IoTs), which will be the pinnacle of technical training. These unique collaborations between further education colleges, universities and businesses offer higher technical education and training (mainly at Levels 4 and 5) in key sectors such as digital, construction, advanced manufacturing and engineering.