Here come the girls – Girls overtake boys in science exam entries in 2019

by Alana Walden, 05 September 2019
Girls in science class

On the 15th August 2019, sixth form students across the UK received their A-level exam results.

One of the most reported, and positive, post-results stories has been the revelation that participation from girls has overtaken boys in science A-level exam entries. This year just over half (50.3%) of science A-level entries came from female candidates, compared with 46.9% last year.

Since 2015, the number of girls taking A-level sciences has continued to increase yearly across the UK. In particular, the number of girls taking A-level Chemistry has increased by 22.7% since 2015, while the number of girls taking A-level Physics has increased by 13.0% over the same time period.

In both Biology and Chemistry, the number of girls entering the A-level examinations is greater than the number of boys.

Chief Executive of Cambridge Assessment’s OCR exam board, Jill Duffy, recognises the encouraging impact the dedicated work of subject associations, teachers and campaigners have had in promoting science subjects to girls, saying: “There’s been a lot of effort over the years to encourage more girls to take science and to get over some of the stereotypes girls might have had about taking science”.

Professor Dame Athene Donald podcast image

One influential woman, passionate about gender equality in sciences is Professor Dame Athene Donald of Cambridge’s Churchill College. She recently joined us for a Cambridge Assessment Podcast where we discussed her life as a woman in science and getting more girls into STEM.

In the podcast, the Professor of Experimental Physics urged school leaders to “think about the child, not the stereotype”. She suggests that from primary school age teachers should be thinking about what kind of activities children are being directed towards, ensuring not to distinguish between which activities are for boys and girls.

With exam entries from girls this year rising across all three sciences, including Physics, it is brilliant to see reports of more girls participating in science subjects at A-level. However, as Professor Dame Athene Donald highlights in the podcast, there’s still more that can be done within both schools and society in general to ensure that the number of females going into STEM careers continues to grow.

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