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STEM Subjects: Females

Question for Department for Education

UIN 83357, tabled on 29 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what progress the Government is making on encouraging more girls into STEM careers.

Answered on

7 December 2021

The department recognises the demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills is growing, which is why ensuring that anyone, regardless of their background, can pursue a career in a STEM occupation is a key priority for this government.

We are pleased to see that since 2010, there has been a 26% proportional increase in the number of STEM A level entries from girls in England. In 2020, girls made up just over half of science A level entries (in biology, chemistry and physics), and there was an increase in the number of female students taking both mathematics and further mathematics, by 4.2% and 4.8% respectively. We recognise, however, that there is still some way to go to address the gender gap in physics and the mathematical subjects.

In order to address this, and encourage more young people into STEM subjects and careers, the government is funding informal learning programmes to inspire young people in schools. For example, the STEM Ambassadors scheme is a nationwide network of over 37,000 volunteers representing over 7,000 employers, who provide engaging extracurricular activities for young people to increase their interest in STEM subjects and to raise awareness of the range of careers that STEM qualifications offer. STEM Ambassadors are relatable role models - 57% are under 35, 45% are female and 15% are from UK minority ethnic backgrounds.

Secondary schools are expected to provide pupils with at least one meaningful interaction with employers per pupil per year, with a particular focus on STEM employers. These interactions open young people’s eyes to a range of different career possibilities and challenge stereotypes, as well as helping to prepare them for the workplace. Furthermore, the Careers and Enterprise Company, working with STEM Learning, have launched a series of STEM toolkits to support teachers to link careers to the STEM curriculum.

In September 2020, we began the phased rollout of T Levels - new technical courses for 16-19 year olds which are equivalent to three A levels. A number of T Level subjects now being taught are related to STEM, such as Construction, Digital, Healthcare and Science. T Levels in Engineering and Manufacturing will be taught from September 2022. The content of these courses is designed by relevant employers and other industry experts, ensuring that students leave their course with the skills most needed by STEM employers. We want as many students as possible to be able to take advantage of T Levels – and to challenge any stereotypes which may hold young people back from applying. Our T Level ambassadors showcase a wide range of voices.

Apprenticeships are a great way for young people to receive high quality training and begin a successful career in STEM. There are over 340 employer-designed apprenticeship standards in STEM, including Cyber Security Technician at level 3 and Civil Engineer (degree) at level 6. In the 2020/21 academic year 24% of all apprenticeship starts were in STEM and it is encouraging to see that female representation in STEM apprenticeships is increasing. We are continuing to promote apprenticeships in schools through the Apprenticeship Support and Knowledge programme and working with our Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network of influential employers to promote best practices in encouraging and retaining more women in STEM apprenticeships.