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STEM Subjects: Females

Question for Department for Education

UIN 138355, tabled on 11 March 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps he is taking to encourage more girls to consider studying for STEM subjects at (a) school, (b) FE college and (c) higher education.

Answered on

21 March 2022

Ensuring that anyone, regardless of their background, can pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupation is a key priority for this government.

To ensure a strong pipeline of qualified students into higher education (HE) and careers in STEM areas, the department has committed substantial spending on mathematics, digital and technical education including funding the Stimulating Physics Network. This network provides tailored support to schools to increase rates of progression to physics A level, including an inclusion project’ which is designed to increase the uptake of A level physics from students in underrepresented groups, including girls.

The department has funded a £84 million programme to improve computing teaching and participation at GCSE and A level, particularly amongst girls.

The department is funding research programmes to investigate ways to tackle gender balance in STEM subjects, including the ‘Improving Gender Balance’ national research trial for physics, and the ‘Gender Balance in Computing’ programme, led by the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

The department has also introduced T Levels as a high-quality technical alternative to A levels. The current T Levels in Science and Digital, as well as the upcoming T Levels in Engineering and Manufacturing, will provide opportunities for all students to study STEM-related subjects. To challenge stereotypes which may hold young people back, including gender stereotypes, the department are using T Level ambassadors to showcase a wide range of voices from those already studying T levels, including girls taking STEM-related T Levels.

The department is implementing several initiatives to increase the numbers of students pursuing STEM at higher levels. Institutes of Technology are unique employer-led institutions providing higher technical education and training in key STEM sectors such as digital, construction, advanced manufacturing, and engineering. These provide local people with the skills to pursue rewarding jobs and local business with the skilled workforce they need. They play a key role in widening local participation in technical education and training from disadvantages and under-represented groups (for example, women and ethnic minorities in STEM), which will help to increase the long-term pipeline of STEM skills.

In HE, the proportion of female full-time undergraduate entrants studying STEM courses has increased from 33.6% in 2011 to 42.2% in 2021.