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Here come the girls

In an all girls setting, no subject is subject to a gender stereotype, says Karl McCloskey, Principal of The Marist School

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | December 11, 2016 | Teaching

Freshly returned to school after attending the Girl’s School Association (GSA)  Conference in Oxford. I am still somewhat perturbed by one of the keynote addresses entitled ‘Why do so Many Girls not do Physics at A Level?’ While Tim Oates CBE is, undoubtedly an eminent expert in the field of assessment research and development, I do not accept the central plank of his speech.

While the National statistics and data may support the speech title, it did not ring true with my own experience of girls following A Level Physics at The Marist School.

Furthermore as I gazed around oak panelled Rhodes House at my colleagues, as fellow GSA Headteachers, I resolutely firmed up my view that AS and A2 Physics uptake figures in GSA Schools are disproportunately higher than  the national statistics data suggests. 

As a sector we “punch significantly above our weight” in encouraging, enabling and supporting girls in engagement with physics. Perhaps the talk was designed to be provocative or contentious, but I simply did not recognise the figures presented as authentically representative of the physics labs and classrooms of GSA Schools in 2016.

As a sector we “punch significantly above our weight” in encouraging, enabling and supporting girls in engagement with physics

In an all girls setting no subject is subject to a gender stero-type.  Our science captains and pupil leadership positions are naturally always girls.  Science clubs and extra curricular enrichment activities are well attended as their topics are carefully chosen to appeal to girls of all ages. Our younger pupils spend their time at the school watching us celebrate girls achieving in science and beyond all through the year. 

These points help us create a culture in the school that ‘Girls Can Do Anything.' From the ancient Greek astronomer Hypatia to Sophie Germain, Emmy Noether, Marie Goeppert-Mayer, Lisa Meitner, Marie Sklodowska-Curie, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin and other notable women of physics such as Hedy Lamarr, Chien Shiung-Wu, Grace Hopper, Rosalind Franklin, Vera Rubin, Lene Hall and Sandra Faber. They stand as an inspiration and a motivation to fuel the aspirations of Year 12 and 13 girls in the subject discipline of Physics at Advanced Level and beyond.

Personally, and somewhat mischievously, I would like to hear the same talk being delivered in Cern. I am sure that the recently appointed first female director general Fabiola Gianotti may have an opinion on it which closer aligns to the positive culture of ambition and no frontiers thinking which prevails in The Marist and in countless other GSA schools in this regard. 


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