HMI: Matters for Discussion

Notes on the text

1 Ten Good Schools
2 Classics in Comprehensive Schools
3 Modern Languages in Comprehensive Schools
4 Gifted Children in Middle and Comprehensive Secondary Schools
5 The Teaching of Ideas in Geography
6 Mixed Ability Work in Comprehensive Schools
7 The Education of Children in Hospitals for the Mentally Handicapped
8 Developments in the BEd Degree Course
9 Mathematics 5 to 11
10 Community Homes with Education
11 A View of the Curriculum
12 Modern Languages in Further Education
13 Girls and Science
14 Mathematics in the Sixth Form
15 The New Teacher in School


Girls and Science
HMI Series: Matters for Discussion No. 13

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1980
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


The complete document is presented in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go straight to the various sections:

1 Introduction
2 The enquiry
3 Evidence and findings
4 Conclusions and points for discussion
Appendix 1 Data from the survey schools
Appendix 2 National statistics
Appendix 3 Girls and engineering
Appendix 4 Bibliography


[title page]

Department of Education and Science

HMI Series: Matters for Discussion 13


Girls and Science

A report on an enquiry carried out in 1978 into the
teaching of science to girls in coeducational
comprehensive schools and an assessment of the
factors influencing their choice of science subjects.





London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office


[page ii (unnumbered)]

The publications in this series are intended to stimulate professional discussion. They are based on HM Inspectors' observation of work in educational institutions and present their thoughts on some of the issues involved. The views expressed are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Inspectorate as a whole or of the Department of Education and Science. It is hoped that they will promote debate at all levels so that they can be given due weight when educational developments are being assessed or planned. Nothing said is to be construed as implying Government commitment to the provision of additional resources.






Crown copyright 1980
First published 1980

ISBN 0 11 270534 0


[page iii (unnumbered)]

Contents

1 Introduction
1

2 The enquiry
3
Factors considered4
    The school and its environment4
    The curriculum4
    Staffing4
    The science department, curriculum and teaching methods4
The nature of the enquiry4

3 Evidence and findings
6
The schools visited6
Findings9
    Social and environmental influences9
        Girls' view of science9
        Impact of industry10
        Girls' expectations11
    Guidance and careers education12
    Teaching approaches and the science curriculum14
        Confidence in the laboratory15
        Writing17
        Books17
        Need for involvement of girls18
        Understanding science19
        Relevance20
        Lower school work22
        Examination work23
        Compulsory science25
    Staffing and resources26
        Teaching staff26
        Laboratories27
        Finance27
        The sixth form27
        Guidance28

4 Conclusions and points for discussion
29

Appendix 1 Data from the survey schools
34

Appendix 2 National statistics
39

Appendix 3 Girls and engineering
40

Appendix 4 Bibliography
45


[page 1]

1 Introduction


'Is there so great a superfluity of men fit for high duties that society can afford to reject the services of any competent person?'
John Stuart Mill, The subjection of women, 1869.

'I conceive it would be one of the greatest boons which could be conferred upon England if henceforward every child in the country were instructed in the general knowledge of the things about it, in the elements of physics and of botany. But I should be better pleased if to these could be added somewhat of chemistry and an elementary acquaintance with human physiology.'
TH Huxley, from a speech delivered in 1869.

'Since 1869, of course, considerable advances have been made in the development of science teaching programmes for all pupils and, in particular, in the development of scientific education for girls. Nevertheless there have been - and still are - significant differences between the science courses taken by boys and those taken by girls. Although the physical sciences and biology are normally available to both boys and girls at school, at the upper secondary level one-fifth of girls do no science at all and over half do no physical science beyond the third year.'
HM Inspectors of Schools, Aspects of secondary education in England, HMSO 1979.

'A survey by HMI in 1973, leading to the report Curricular differences for boys and girls (HMSO 1975), examined curricular differences between boys and girls and the extent to which these differences contributed to inequality of opportunity. It was found that the girls' pattern of choice of science in single-sex schools differed from that in coeducational schools. Since then the proportion of girls taking science has not significantly changed.'
HM Inspectors of Schools, Aspects of secondary education in England, HMSO 1979.

'The Green Paper Education in schools: a consultative document (Cmnd 6869, HMSO 1977) pointed out that care must be taken to see that girls do not, by their choice of subject, limit their career opportunities, and that schools should not by their assumptions, decisions or choice of teaching materials limit the educational opportunities offered to girls. It may become necessary in some way to encourage girls to broaden their aspirations and to feel confident of success in science and technology, although the Green Paper gives no guidance on what form that encouragement might take. Schools, however, do not provide science education solely for employment. Science must also be seen as an integral part of general education for all pupils.'
HMI Working Papers, Curriculum 11-16, pp27-29, 1977.


[page 2]

The differences between boys' and girls' education in science and in the pattern of their future careers cannot be wholly, and probably are not even mainly, due to the attitudes, approaches and curricula of the schools. A more important factor is the influence of social assumptions that exist outside the schools. Nevertheless there are considerable differences between schools in the patterns of choice girls make in science, and these are very difficult to explain solely in terms of factors operating outside the influence of the school.

Take, for example, the five schools in Table 1, all of them from a single local education authority. The differences are striking.

Table 1 Average number of science subjects chosen by pupils in the fourth and fifth year at the time of the enquiry

If formal education is concerned, as it ought to be, with the identification and development of the talents and skills of all pupils across the broad range of the curriculum, then, in order to achieve these goals, all pupils - whatever their difficulties in a particular area, and irrespective of the origins of these difficulties - must be given adequate help and support. The inspectors' visits were designed to discover what help and support schools could give, especially in science subjects where girls might experience greater learning difficulties than boys.

The enquiry described in this publication did not answer that question fully, but the publication attempts to identify the measures being taken in a number of schools in which a higher proportion of girls than usual follow courses in chemistry and physics. It was not its purpose to add further to the literature available on differences between male and female attributes, personality characteristics or cognitive abilities: these are dealt with in books such as those mentioned in the bibliography (Appendix 4).




[page 3]

2 The enquiry


The selection of schools to be visited was based on information collected from a variety of sources (including LEA science advisers, GCE and CSE examination boards and HMI) about the number of girls following physical science courses in coeducational comprehensive schools. Coeducational comprehensive schools were chosen because most pupils are now taught in such schools. The following criteria were used to identify the fifteen schools chosen for this particular enquiry:

a large number of girls were following physical science courses in the fourth and fifth years, or the ratio of girls to boys on physics and chemistry courses was above the national average;
the school was fully comprehensive up to the age of 16;
the school had not been a girls' school during the past decade, but might have included a girls' school on reorganisation;
as far as possible, a diverse range of geographical and social catchment areas was covered.
Included in the final list were two schools that ensured, through different organisational and curricular structures, that all pupils studied physical and biological science up to the end of compulsory schooling. In these schools one of the concerns of the enquiry was to discover whether the science courses had been adjusted in any way to accommodate the girls. Six other schools, some of which did not fully satisfy the criteria but in which interesting initiatives had been developed, were visited but less intensively. A number of other institutions were also visited briefly, including an independent girls' school noted for its success in teaching physical science to girls, a university engineering department that has attracted a number of women undergraduates, a science and technology regional organisation (SATRO) with several years' experience of arranging conferences on engineering for sixth form girls, and several industrial concerns that actively recruit girls. In all twenty-one schools visited there was concern about the number of girls taking physical science but not all had taken conscious steps to change the pattern of choice; some had not appreciated their own successes (see Chapter 3).

Approximately 2,000 boys and 2,000 girls in each year group attended the fifteen schools (see Appendix 1, Table A1). There were in all about 1,000 boys and 1,000 girls in each year group in the other six schools and their work was similarly observed but for less time.

The literature on science education for girls suggested factors that might affect their pattern of choice of science subjects. Others were suggested by earlier HMI observations in schools. (A pilot survey of five schools had been conducted in 1977). In each school HMI attempted to assess the extent to which such factors were at work and looked for others.


[page 4]

Factors considered

The school and its environment

Standards of discipline and expectations of the school.
Range of opportunities for science-based employment in the area.

The curriculum

Options schemes in years 4, 5, 6 and 7
Discrimination within the curriculum in years 1-3
Guidance scheme and careers education
Strengths and weaknesses in subject areas likely to impinge upon science.

Staffing

Ratio of male to female teachers in the school and in the science department
Women in influential posts of responsibility
Influence of scientists holding senior posts in the school
Stability of staffing in science
Deployment of science staff across the age and ability levels.

The science department, curriculum and teaching methods

Accommodation and resources
Role of pupils' practical work
Nature of writing and note-taking
Use of books and other non-laboratory resources
Illumination of scientific principles through applications and implications for the environment
Involvement of girls in the classroom/laboratory
Allocation of time, resoures and staffing in years 1-3
Links with other subject areas.

Not all of these factors were found to be significant. Those that appeared to have most influence on girls' patterns of choice in science are commented upon in Findings, Chapter 3.

The nature of the enquiry

Each of the fifteen schools in the main enquiry was visited for three days or more by two or three HMI (including at least one woman), all of whom were science specialists. Before their visit, HMI were given details of the numbers of pupils taking the various science courses, the examination results, the staffing of the science department, and the structure and organisation of the curriculum. During the inspection, further information was gathered, assessments were made by normal inspection procedures, and impressions were formed from conversations with girls and boys in the school. Groups of girls of various ages were interviewed about their interests and their attitudes to science and about those aspects of science that appealed to them or caused them to reject it. These were informal conversations concentrating on their attitudes to science courses and teaching


[page 5]

methods and on what they considered to be the factors that influenced their choice of subject.

One important aim of the visits was to describe practices that appeared to be helpful to girls taking science; the comments of staff with experience of teaching science to girls in mixed groups helped to identify such practices. The evidence gathered, when related to the factors already outlined, suggested other factors not previously identified, eg extracurricular activities of science staff. The effect of these factors could not be established beyond doubt, but there was clear evidence that some measures seemed to give particular support to girls.





[page 6]

3 Evidence and findings


The schools visited

The fifteen selected schools had from 700 to 1,840 pupils on roll (see Appendix 1, Table A1). Four were upper schools taking pupils from middle schools. One was an 11-16 school feeding a sixth-form college. The remainder were 11-18 schools, although two had yet to complete their sixth-form development. The sixth forms varied in size from 20 to 240. Although the majority of the schools originally suggested were concentrated around the major industrial and manufacturing centres of the Midlands and North, the fifteen schools were deliberately chosen to cover as wide a range of geographical and social catchment areas as possible. The six additional schools helped to diversify this range, as did the five schools from the pilot survey mentioned in Chapter 2.

Despite these attempts to include schools with varied catchment areas, six of the fifteen schools served suburban or commuter areas, socially favoured, and near a major town with a wide range of employment opportunities. Two of the six served an area strongly influenced by the civic university and the polytechnic. Of the remaining nine schools, two served social priority areas, one with a high proporton of pupils with Asian or West Indian parents. The other served a mining community where employment opportunities were very restricted and many workers had to travel to one of the large towns nearby. Two others served a new town type of catchment area where council houses had been built to accommodate overspill from a nearby city. Another school served an area dominated by steel, mining and allied industries but with few other technical opportunities likely to appeal to girls. The four remaining schools had a very balanced catchment area, both socially and academically, and two of them had a large proportion of children from Asian or West Indian homes (15 to 25 per cent). The catchment area of one of these schools contained many immigrant families, of widely different nationalities, including a number of Italians, and in one of the classes visited only 50 per cent of pupils had parents born in the UK. Teachers spoke of the great interest Asian families took in medicine and West Indian families in nursing for their daughters. One of the schools remarked upon the high proportion of Asian children in the upper sets for science who were very successful in their examinations.

Although in several of the schools deputy heads responsible for guidance were women, only one of the fifteen had a headmistress (an honours graduate in history). In the five years since she came to the school she had helped to raise the status of science in the eyes of the pupils, and the number of girls opting to take physics and chemistry had risen. In the year following the HMI visit, more girls than boys opted for chemistry.

In all these schools, the general curricular pattern up to 14 years of age was that all pupils, boys and girls, studied each of the major subject areas including science, biological and physical, and the traditional


[page 7]

crafts. Up to 13 years of age, combined science was the norm (only one school had separate sciences at this stage), with teachers choosing topics for their intrinsic interest as well as for the scientific concepts to be introduced as a basis for later work. The most common method of instruction was for the pupils to carry out practical work and for the teacher to demonstrate when appropriate. A small range of scientific literature was often available, including a selection of text books and background readers, rather than just a single text book at this stage. Pupils' writing consisted mainly of descriptions of practical work. By contrast, in the third year, separate physics, chemistry and biology became the norm for all pupils, except for those in two schools (a third was included in the additional schools visited) with a balanced science course - that is, one comprising the basic elements of physical and biological science - for all up to 16 years of age, and except for remedial groups in two other schools. The work usually became much more abstract and theoretical; biology with an emphasis on human aspects was the most frequent exception to this. Teachers clearly felt the need to base the work more closely on future examination demands.

During the third year, pupils normally made a selection of subjects from a range of options available for study in the fourth and fifth years. These option schemes operated in eighteen of the twenty-one schools visited. Neither boys nor girls were prevented from taking any subject, or reasonable combination of subjects, of their choice. In general, however, choices were not totally free but were influenced by a number of constraints. Pupils were encouraged to maintain a balance of subjects for educational reasons and to keep open a wide range of opportunities in employment and further education. In twelve of the eighteen schools which offered a choice of science subjects, at least one of the sciences was deemed essential (another school had recently introduced such a policy for the first time), although exceptions were made for a few individals in four of these schools. In one school a few courses considered to be science courses had, on inspection, little scientific content. In another, both the system of options and the advice girls were given when they were making their choices helped to encourage them to continue with a physical science after they had already satisfactorily completed a three-year course. The 'core' science course was compulsory for all pupils, and the options consisted of only a short period of further study for each of the separate sciences. This gave pupils a good opportunity to achieve a balanced curriculum. An exceptionally high proportion of girls in this school opted to continue with chemistry.

Three of the twenty-one schools provided all pupils, boys and girls, with science courses which included both the physical and biological sciences. All the girls in these schools therefore continued with their physical science studies, as well as with biology, and had the opportunity to obtain examination qualifications. In none of these three schools was there a particularly marked resentment among the girls at the compulsion involved, perhaps partly because they were often not aware of alternative systems but also because in all three schools the schemes of work had a wide appeal. There was a marked emphasis on the application of principles in biology, rural science and


[page 8]

CSE applied science schemes. One sixth-form girl commented that, given the choice, she would have dropped science but would have lived to regret that decision since she had later decided to take mathematics, physics and chemistry at A-level and wished to take a degree course in physical science. Another girl in the same school commented: 'If physics isn't made compulsory then people are naturally going to take the easy way out because they know that physics is a subject which needs great thought.' In these schools the diversified objectives of the science teaching helped to take account of the wider range of interests and aptitudes oftheir pupils, both boys and girls. One of these schools followed the Schools Council Integrated Science scheme and a CSE scheme based upon a choice of scientific topics of general interest to average pupils.

There was some evidence, however, that in all twenty-one schools one effect of the examination syllabus was to reduce the amount of practical work done in science classes. In physics and chemistry the mathematical demands increased markedly. Because of the constraints of examination syllabuses teachers felt unable to choose topics of intrinsic interest to pupils, except in courses specifically devised for those of low academic potential and not leading to examinations.

All the schools with sixth forms offered biology, physics and chemistry at A-level, with the majority of pupils who chose a physical science taking all three sciences, or physics and chemistry with mathematics. A number of girls were taking biology, and a few chemistry, with non-science subjects. Of the 84 girls who had left with A-level science qualifications in the previous year, 28 had taken physics, 53 chemistry, and 56 biology. 49 had taken science and mathematics only, and 35 a mixture of science and non-science A-levels. In these sixth forms, for those pupils not taking A-levels, there were few science courses other than those leading to O-level.

Not all of the schools had teachers who had become sufficiently conscious of the problem to take positive action to encourage more girls to choose the physical sciences. Some teachers had expressed concern, sometimes after reading articles in the scientific and educational press. Few had, however, been able to compare data from their own school with the national picture. Even in the schools that were successful in attracting girls to physical science, some bad practices were observed (see Findings). In a few of the bigger schools, although the number of girls taking science in the fourth and fifth years was large, as a proportion of the year group it was not particularly so.

In one such school, many girls, mainly in the bottom band, did no science at all but in the upper bands the proportion of girls taking physics and chemistry was quite high. The evidence from these schools was invaluable as it provided interesting comparisons and suggested that large schools might encounter particular difficulties. It may be that because many pupils (though not a high proportion) opt for a subject, there is little incentive for staff to review practice critically in order to increase that number, especially if resources (laboratories and staffing, for example) are already stretched.

Staff in most of the schools visited were not aware of how they compared with other schools in terms of the proportion of girls taking


[page 9]

the physical sciences; indeed, many expressed disappointment that so few girls opted for physics. Most schools were concerned about the problem although few had made changes in the curriculum specifically for this reason. But, as the following Table 2 shows, the percentage of girls in the thirteen schools studying the physical sciences was higher than the national average.

Table 2 Science subjects studied by girls in the schools

See Appendix 1, Table A2, for variations among the schools in the enquiry.

When confronted with data of this kind, teachers began to offer a number of suggestions about the possible causes. HMI were grateful for their views and for the evidence they so willingly provided.

Findings

Many of the factors considered by HMI on these visits seemed to have no consistent influence on girls' choice of science, but others were often seen to be significant. None taken in isolation had any discernible impact nor was any found that was common to all schools. Those found to have most influence on the girls' pattern of choice in science fell into four main groups:

social and environmental influences
career choice and school guidance
teaching approaches and the science curriculum
resources (staff, laboratory accommodation, equipment and materials).
Social and environmental influences

Girls' view of science

1. Even in this selected group of schools pupils noted that physical sciences had a masculine image and led to qualifications relevant to traditionally male-orientated occupations. Girls themselves


[page 10]

sometimes saw little value in scientific qualifications for girls, despite efforts by the schools to inform them better. As they pointed out, few of their science teachers were women and most of the science-based occupations were male-dominated except those involving human care. Girls sometimes said that even parents and teachers had questioned their decision to take science. 'The senior mistress thinks girls should take ladylike subjects such as needlework, so I decided to show her that girls are just as good at science as boys are.' Even in the school where integrated science was compulsory for all pupils, there appeared to be differences in the ways in which boys and girls reacted to what they were taught. Although girls seemed to be no less confident in their studies than boys, they expressed the view that the physical sciences were really for the boys.

The impact of industry

2. In towns with a heavy emphasis on engineering and manufacturing, and especially where there was a wide range of science-based industries, parents frequently had scientific qualifications or were aware of their value. A higher level of expectation in science among the girls was not uncommon in these towns, and they were more readily encouraged to take science subjects at school. In one LEA covering an area with a major manufacturing industry and a major chemical manufacturer, there was an unusually large number of schools in which physical science was popular with girls. One school in this LEA was visited. In another LEA the figures from two administrative areas, one of which has a heavy concentration of chemical industries, show interesting differences. One school in area B of this LEA was visited.

Table 3 Science subjects studied by boys and girls: by administrative areas in one LEA


[page 11]

The figures in Table 3 suggest that, indirectly, the presence of the chemical industries in Area B is affecting the pattern of girls' choice of subjects, particularly chemistry, although other variables are undoubtedly also at work. In such areas the jobs of parents and other relatives are a constant reminder. 'Both my sister and brother are scientists and this has influenced me. Though I think I still want to take languages, if it was not for my brother and my sister I think I'd have dropped sciences altogether.' Evidence of this kind confirms much of the research already available, indicating that the pupils' image of science depends upon information and impressions gained from parents, friends, contacts and their immediate living and working environment. Such images played a significant part when pupils chose subjects for further study in the schools visited.

It was reported by one of the schools that a prominent local employer had recently taken on his first female craft apprentice. In the area of another school, the major local employer had been taking on girl apprentices for several years but the girls in the school seemed not to be aware of this.

Girls' expections

3. The schools counteracted these social and environmental influences to only a limited extent. Even in the most successful schools the proportion of girls following physical science courses was below the proportion of boys taking these courses. There was however clear evidence that some measures taken by the schools encouraged more girls to follow these courses successfully. A few had effected an increase during 1977, the year before the visit.* In these schools it was particularly interesting to note the initiatives taken. Once a tradition had been established that a sizable group of girls each year took physical science, it became easier to maintain the size of the group.

4. The practice in almost all schools in the enquiry of offering all subjects on the curriculum to both boys and girls showed itself in the craft subjects in the first two or three years. Many had adopted a rotation of crafts for all pupils, with girls enjoying a taste of woodwork, design and technology and technical drawing; their response to metalwork was not always so favourable, nor was the boys' response to needlework. Once options were available, few girls continued with 'boys' crafts. When technical drawing was available, a few girls took the subject through to examinations, even to A-level. (A girl in one of the schools had obtained one of the recently introduced industry-sponsored undergraduate engineering scholarships.) Some girls were continuing with metalwork and woodwork and a few went on to craft apprenticeships. In one school, upper school girls were observed working successfully at silversmithing, woodwork, technical drawing and control technology. In another, the success enjoyed by the girls, supported by the attitudes of the craft teacher, was seen to be breaking down the barriers between traditional 'male' and 'female' subjects. A small trickle of girls were looking towards technical occupations and industrial sponsorship through a university career. Although the number of girls following these courses was always small, a climate was created in which the science department could broaden its appeal to include more girls.

*cf Appendix 1, Table A2


[page 12]

Guidance and careers education

5. The emphasis laid on carefully structured guidance, sometimes well supported by the careers service, for pupils in the third year was a prominent feature of most of the fifteen schools. Periods were timetabled for the form or year tutors or for the careers staff to present a programme of talks, discussions, interviews and self-assessment exercises leading to options.

The market value of scientific qualifications for girls was stressed, and particularly of chemistry as an adjunct of biology and home economics or as a qualification in its own right. The aspects of guidance found to be of most influence were:

clear presentation of the career opportunities opened up by each subject or closed by dropping it. The value of certain combinations of subjects was highlighted;
a carefully worked out plan for communicating with parents through school publications and meetings in order to provide information about the options system and the consequences of choice;
careful assessment of the past performance and the likely future achievement of each pupil;
individual interviewing to probe initial choice.
6. Conversations with third year boys and girls suggested that the dominant factors influencing subject choices were career aspirations, the advice given by parents as well as by the school, achievement in the subject, and interest. Science was frequently seen as being difficult, and girls often took an unduly pessimistic view of their own potential. A large number of those studying physics and chemistry in the fourth and fifth years were doing so for career reasons or because they had already demonstrated their ability in these subjects. Few were studying them because they took pleasure in them.

7. If the evidence provided by this enquiry is true generally, it seems that, whatever arguments there may be for a compulsory science element within a balanced curriculum, when options are available the most influential factors affecting girls' choice of physics and chemistry are career implications and job opportunities. Since, as the evidence gathered during the enquiry seems to suggest, most girls were reluctant to commit themselves to specific careers at the end of the third year, the schools generally recognised the need for a balanced curriculum to avoid, as far as possible, the closing of career doors at this stage. Teachers pointed out that the sciences presented particular problems. It is not sufficient to stress the need to persevere with a single science subject, since the subject most popular with the girls, biology, by itself has only limited value as a qualification, whatever its value for general education or its intrinsic interest. It is also extremely difficult to pick up the study of the physical sciences again at a later stage if they are dropped prematurely. For the intending medical student and the future science specialist the need for three sciences can limit other studies.


[page 13]

8. In only six of the fifteen schools was the science department directly involved in third-year guidance. (In two there were no science options for the fourth year). Some were anxious not to bring undue pressure to bear on pupils, although the difference between the dissemination of information and actual pressure was recognised. One teacher commented: 'I changed my views when I noted the influence of those who conducted the interviews with pupils and parents. I now feel that it is essential for the head of science to explain clearly which doors are closed if pupils do not take physics and chemistry.' In one school the head of department spoke to all third-year science classes about the career implications of science choices, while in the fifth year he gave pupils thinking of following sixth form courses and their parents the opportunity to talk to him about university and higher education courses, careers and professions. In another school there was, in the central concourse of the science block, an impressive display of literature on careers and on higher and further education courses, with posters and other publicity material. The Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC) pamphlet Your choice at 14-plus was distributed by the science department in another school. This pamphlet stresses the careers that will be closed, or at least made more difficult to enter, if science subjects are dropped.

In the guidance programme of a third school the industrial background of six of the eight physical scientists was employed to good effect. Their industrial contacts had provided the basis for a programme of 40 to 50 outside speakers each year. These teachers took opportunities during science lesson time to talk to pupils about careers involving science. In a fourth school fifth year girls talked of the influence of a careers convention they had attended in the third year when visitors had spoken about jobs that the girls had not previously considered.

A particularly thorough third-year guidance programme recently introduced in one school illustrates the extent of the consultation required if pupils are to understand the full implications of their subject choices. During the autumn term, heads of department talk to the pupils in tutor groups, explaining the fourth and fifth year courses and the career opportunities that can arise from studying these subjects. Form tutors are closely involved in discussions with their pupils. Parents are sent the mid-year reports and a letter explaining the option schemes and are invited to attend a parents' evening to talk to the teachers. After they have chosen their subjects, all pupils are interviewed individually by the deputy head about their career interests and the implications of their choice. Heads of department are informed of these choices and are invited to suggest which examination courses are most appropriate for each pupil. After being interviewed again by the deputy head, pupils may request changes of subject.

One of the form tutors in this school explained his role. After having described the option system to the pupils, he asked them for a provisional choice of subjects. Career interests and the qualifications and examination grades required were considered. Following the talks by the heads of departments, and again after the mid-year examinations, reports and the parents' evening, pupils were asked to reconsider their choice; the final choice was made only after the


[page 14]

interviews with the deputy head. The boy or girl was therefore made to consider options and their career implications over a long period of time. But, as with other initiatives, it was impossible to measure the effect of such a scheme on the pattern of girls' choice of science.

In some schools the effect of other subject departments was particularly noticeable. The work of other departments was not observed but teachers of subjects likely to affect or be affected by science choices in the fourth and fifth years were interviewed and pupils readily gave their observations on these subjects, as they did with science. For able girls, modern languages competed with science, especially where two or three languages were available. 'I wanted to take physics but I had already chosen to take Spanish in year three and could not change once I had committed myself to this.' In three of the schools where science was popular the headmaster expressed strong disappointment about the standards in modern languages. On the other hand, in one of the schools where there had been a long tradition of success in modern languages, there was no compulsion to study a science at all in the fifth year (a policy of compulsory science had just been introduced in year four) and many of the more able girls chose foreign languages as early as year two.

9. In ten out of the fifteen schools the headmaster, one of his deputies or the senior teacher was a scientist. Of these, four were most influential within the guidance programme. Where guidance was in the hands of one person only, an undue influence rested upon his limited knowledge of the implications of subject choice. This was illustrated in one school where the pattern of science choices was seen to be closely related to the background of the housemaster (see Table 4). In another school the informal, yet positive, guidance from the science staff counteracted to some extent the fluctuations in the numbers opting for science which otherwise reflected the attitude of whoever was appointed head of the third year.

Table 4 Pupils' choices of science against specialisms of housemasters in one school

Teaching approaches and the science curriculum

10. Evidence from this enquiry suggests that there is little about the way in which science is taught that is uniquely applicable to girls. Looking at the problems experienced by girls highlighted the difficulties faced by both boys and girls. Where science was popular with girls, it was usually so with boys. Where science was successful, girls saw nothing particularly unusual about taking physics and chemistry, although in some of the schools there had been difficulties


[page 15]

in raising the number of girls taking physics and chemistry to a level at which it looked a 'normal' choice for girls. In several of the schools there had recently been a marked increase in the number of girls opting for science courses in the fourth and fifth years. This had usually followed a careful look at the problem, including not only better guidance before subject choices were made, but a review of the teaching schemes and of the deployment of teaching expertise. There was no evidence of a single influence on science teachers' attitudes to the problem beyond a concern to make the physical sciences 'accessible' to as large a number of pupils as possible.

Confidence in the laboratory

11. Some girls expressed the view, often supported by teachers, that they had embarked upon the secondary school science curriculum at something of a disadvantage. Few had developed practical interests of a scientific and technological kind, and they felt a lack of the necessary practical experience on which theoretical scientific concepts could adequately be based. In one school it was noted that girls left the more complex electrical equipment to the boys, even in the upper school. Many of the girls in all the schools visited had had little previous experience of practical electricity (one girl said that she was not allowed to change a fuse at home, although her younger brother was) and little involvement with simple mechanics and machinery - the workings of a bicycle or of domestic appliances, for example. It seems that boys are more likely to have had such experiences at home. This led girls to lack confidence in the laboratory setting and to be excessively concerned about whether or not their ideas were 'correct' , as well as to have a fear of accidents or spillages and of experiments that did not 'work'. This is not to suggest that boys did not encounter similar difficulties, but boys appeared to embark upon new practical activities with rather less trepidation.

Tentativeness of this kind was apparent during a lesson with a second year combined science class which was engaged on a simple glass-blowing exercise. After sealing the end of a glass tube, the pupils were asked to heat the sealed end to red heat and to blow a small bulb 1 cm to 2 cm in diameter. Several of the groups of girls - it was normal in most schools for girls and boys to choose to work in separate groups - were hesitant about heating the glass too strongly or blowing too hard. This was less frequently true of the boys' groups. As a result, few of the girls had satisfactorily completed the exercise in the time allowed. The teacher allowed a second attempt during the following lesson and two of the groups of girls quickly produced excellent 'devices' which they exhibited with considerable pride to the rest of the class. Home economics teachers commented that boys often show a similar ineptitude and lack of confidence in practical work when they first embark on the home craft course in their first year. In one of the schools, a group of girls who came from the same primary school had previously encountered scientific activities. The girls claimed that this raised their level of interest and enabled them to succeed in science at an age when their attitudes to school subjects were being formed.


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12. However, the girls enjoyed practical work despite their trepidation. One of the most prominent factors detected in the enquiry was the high value girls placed on practical work. The opportunity to do a lot of practical work throughout the school was very closely correlated with high levels of interest among girls as well as boys. 'The science appeals to me', one girl commented. 'It includes practicals which you do yourself and work out what is happening.' 'The main thing that I like about science lessons', remarked a second, 'is the experiments that we do ourselves and also the experiments that are demonstrated to us by the teacher. I like to watch the reactions rather than to write down senseless notes that I would not understand if I had not seen the experiment carried out.' 'When I took physics and chemistry I liked doing the practical work', said a third. 'When I did the practical work I found I could understand the work better.'

13. Practical work was most successful where pupils clearly understood the purpose of the experiment. At the end of the piece of work girls needed to identify the most important outcome. There was little evidence to suggest that they were opposed to a problem-solving approach - in fact, many expressed the view that they preferred to be involved in their own experimental work and to sort out their own ideas. This approach worked best within a framework in which all the pupils were clear about the objectives and about the progress being made. Even among those girls who had dropped science it was remarkable how many commented favourably on their attitude to the laboratory work of earlier years.

14. One successful way, adopted by some teachers, of introducing girls to a laboratory science course and engaging their interest in it was to choose a topic that all the pupils, boys and girls, found new and exciting - for example, the chemical and physical changes that are caused by heat. An experimentally based introduction of this kind helped to boost girls' confidence and develop their interest in practical work, as long as the teacher was sympathetic to the conceptual problems involved and adopted a suitably sympathetic and encouraging attitude. Another successful approach began with a topic in which girls showed a marked interest - in this case, living things. Girls, as well as boys, however, quickly lost interest if the ground had already been covered in primary school - as measurement so often is, for example. The variety of practice in the primary schools clearly presented problems of coordination for the secondary school science teacher; HMI noted that teachers frequently did not know which topics had previously been introduced in the primary school.

15. One feature commonly referred to by the girls was the amount of interest created by the laboratory environment, though some teachers said that pupils failed to notice it. In a number of schools teachers had created, through the use of display materials and interesting equipment, a lively and stimulating atmosphere. This was most commonly found in biology laboratories. The environment of one biology department was particularly noteworthy, the whole ethos being consideration and respect for life. The school in question was


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one of those that had a balanced science course for all pupils. The corridor outside the laboratories had been transformed with a variety of plants chosen for their value as teaching material, all of them cared for and clearly labelled. Plants grown by some pupils were on show and well treated by all. Walls were covered with posters and brochures (some produced by the pupils) related to the many living creatures housed in the rooms.

Writing

16. Most of the science departments encouraged the pupils to write descriptions of the laboratory work in their own words rather than to complete duplicated sheets or otherwise to copy notes. The earlier maturation of girls often showed in their control of writing and drawing and in their marked attention to the presentation and detail of their written work. This was sometimes mistaken for an indication that they preferred this way of working. As one girl remarked: 'Because we are good at written work I wish that teachers would not assume that we actually like this method of working or that we learn much by it.' In general, girls did not wish to encourage an emphasis on passive notetaking.

Books

17. Books were rarely seen in use, although girls spoke of using them to consolidate the work in class and to improve their sometimes uncertain grasp of the subject. In the school with the largest percentage of girls taking physics, textbooks were plentiful, readily available, in good condition and recently acquired. A good range of sixth form books had also been bought but not at the expense of important laboratory resources. Girls frequently said that they found security in possessing a textbook. Pupils were rarely issued with a personal copy of a science text before the fourth form, and contact with science books in the classroom or laboratory was more often to be found in the biological than in the physical sciences. More frequently than boys, it seems, girls needed to see the point of their studies through the immediate relevance of their work, and books sometimes provided the necessary background. In one school all first and second year pupils had a single lesson each week in the library doing individual project work under the supervision of the science teacher. Pupils chose their topic from an extensive list and used the library books for research. Examples seen included water storage, preservation of food, control of temperature, noise, clocks, refuse, household chemicals, careers in science, and the history of medicine. In one of the schools, the chemistry department had selected a new text which focused on the applications of chemistry in many aspects of life, domestic as well as industrial, and on their social effects. One physics department had acquired sets of a recent CSE text book, again focusing on applications. It happened to be one of the few physics books with a woman as co-author.

Of the books used in the schools visited few were likely to appeal visually and only rarely did they stress the features that the girls felt to be important - the social implications of science and the relevance of theory to practice. Where photographs and pictures showed human involvement, there was a dearth of females engaged in any scientific


[page 18]

activity; the girls did the easy things, like blowing up a balloon, while the boys tackled the 'real stuff' (eg jacking up motor-cars and using ticker-tape timers).

Need for involvement of girls

18. In many of the schools, girls were usually reluctant to become actively involved in class discussion. If general questions were asked of the whole class the response from the boys was usually more marked. When teachers directed their questions at specific pupils and deliberately involved the girls in the work, their responses indicated no lack of ability or understanding.

19. Often girls were reluctant, as they were in many other aspects of science work, to commit themselves in case they gave the wrong answer, particularly in front of boys in their peer group whom they often regarded as being clever at science. 'I would try to have more all-girls classes than mixed because you tend to feel overshadowed in a class, especially by boys who tend to have a better flair for the subject. This makes you feel embarrassed or stupid about asking for something to be explained or saying that you don't understand.' The question of the effect of boys in the class arose on many occasions. 'Clever boys make us feel stupid.' These girls were in fact able, two of the six aiming for medical school.

20. It was not only the clever boys who intimidated the girls. The girls' lack of confidence quickly became apparent whenever there was any hint of indiscipline in the class (frequently among the boys) or any suggestion of sarcasm or teasing from whatever source. One incident illustrates this. A group of girls who had little previous experience of practical physical science, especially of electricity, experienced difficulties when first asked to connect batteries, bulbs, switches and meters together. Some boys began to mock the girls and to interfere with their experiment, thinking it funny that girls should encounter difficulty with what seemed to them to be an elementary piece of work. The teacher failed to take a firm disciplinary line and support the girls when they were experiencing this lack of confidence. These girls expressed strongly their distaste for this behaviour on the part of both pupils and teacher.

21. Occasionally it was also possible during the survey to perceive the effects of inadvertently discouraging behaviour on the part of teachers. In a few classes, especially where girls were in the minority, the teacher appeared to see, and address, only the boys: girls with their hands raised in response to questions went unnoticed. One teacher, when asked by an able girl if he could explain a point, asked her to work it out for herself. This was the method regularly adopted by this teacher simply because he was trying to encourage self-reliance, but the girl found this approach to her difficulties rather worrying. But it was not only discouraging remarks that affected attitudes and reinforced stereotypes. Teachers were often unaware of possible impressions created by casual remarks. The following example illustrates the point.


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Teacher: 'Now, which of the boys will do it first - they will be more used to this sort of thing.' (Demonstration on air pressure).
'Now which of the boys will do the cutting. - Girls let me know if you feel sick' (dissection).
A worksheet from one school advised pupils to take home their model electric motor (constructed during the lesson) 'and show it to your brother'.
22. One of the outstanding features of the schools, and particularly of the science departments visited, was the calm, friendly yet disciplined atmosphere. In one school chemistry was described to HMI as being a 'quiet subject'. A climate had been created in which most pupils were able to concentrate, learn and progress, where those pupils who experienced difficulties were able to express them, and where pupils' self-confidence was not undermined by the disorderly behaviour of others or by a tense atmosphere. In one school where a third year physics class had been disruptive, the proportion of the girls from this class continuing with the subject was adversely affected. In another school it was noticeable that, despite some difficult social and behavioural problems, the expectations in terms of discipline and behaviour in the school were markedly above the standards apparently tolerated in the community at large, to judge from the amount of vandalism and graffiti in the neighbourhood.

Understanding science

23. For many reasons, girls felt less confident than boys in the physical sciences, even when their demonstrable abilities did not warrant such lack of assurance. They placed considerable emphasis on understanding rather than on rote learning, although some resorted to the latter if they found that it was an acceptable strategy. 'Parts of the physics course have little meaning to me. For the exam it is necessary to learn the various proofs, but I never really understand the reasoning behind them.' 'The teacher helps to make chemistry lessons more enjoyable by being helpful. When I am in difficulty about a section of work he explains it so that I understand it better.' In almost all cases it was the theoretical explanations that appeared to cause the greatest difficulties.

24. Problems with the mathematics needed were regarded by many girls in most of the schools as being an important factor in their decision about physical science options. They commonly had no clear idea about objectives served by the mathematics and this confused their understanding of the science. 'The main thing that I dislike about science is physics. Again, I like the experiments that we do but I hate doing the mathematical side. I do not understand the equation of motion and all the calculations connected with it.' However, the mathematical capabilities of the pupils were a serious problem in only two of the schools visited. In another school all those girls who took science obtained a mathematics grade in the external examinations at least as high as the science grades, and in many cases higher. In this school the numbers of girls taking physics and chemistry were exceptionally high. In one of the schools least successful with girls in


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the physical sciences, the examination results in science were generally not as good as in mathematics and certainly not as good as in languages. In the school where there had been a marked increase in girls choosing physics and chemistry, there had been a recent review of the mathematics teaching in the school. Although the science department continued to express some frustration over pupils' mathematical skills in science, the number of girls succeeding in mathematics and going on to A-level courses had increased. Modern mathematics was only rarely the source of the problem, except that there were some difficulties over nomenclature and procedures; the science department in one of the schools had adopted the modern mathematics nomenclature to ease the transfer of skills. In several schools the mathematical and numerical content of science courses had been kept to a minimum, particularly in the early years, to bring the scientific concepts into clearer focus and to attempt to boost pupils' confidence and interest. This tended to produce a rather marked contrast to the more quantitative approach adopted in examination courses, particularly O-Ievel. The need to use mathematical skills in science appeared to undermine the confidence of many pupils, particularly girls.

25. Girls often asked for personal help in sorting out these problems. Sometimes the most sympathetic teachers responded by being, in the view of HMI, a little too prescriptive and not making sufficient demands on the girls. Teachers made themselves available outside normal lesson time in several schools, and more girls than boys availed themselves of this opportunity. This practice became institutionalised as a 'work clinic' in one of the schools. The girls in another school consistently asked for more personal attention in class. 'The groups are too large, which means that we get insufficient personal attention during class. If you get wrong answers then you have to go and see the teacher in your own time, by which time the class may have finished the topic.' In another school, a girl commented about her chemistry teacher: 'He's so patient and kind. You don't mind saying that you don't understand. He will go over and over it until he is sure that everyone understands. He does not make you feel silly like some other people do.' In that same school another girl commented about physics: 'Often a girl says she doesn't understand and then other girls join in, and after a while a boy will admit he is not sure either and everyone does.' Obviously, pupils are often hesitant about disclosing their difficulties.

Relevance

26. 'Useful' science related to everyday objects and occurrences was a constantly recurring theme in girls' comments. 'I think more people would take an interest in physical science if the syllabus was related more to life - for example, after experiments on acids bases and salts we should have a knowledge of what salts are actually used for. This association to life helps us to understand the relevance of the experiment.' 'The things we learn about in physics are interesting - everyday things about the home, like how the hot water system works.' 'In biology you learn about how your body and animals' bodies work


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instead of just taking them for granted. You learn about everyday things and it makes you see them in a different light, which is interesting.' In one school, the CSE applied physical science course had achieved notable successes and a number of girls in the upper band, to whom the course was not available, looked with some envy on their less academic peers. In some schools it was in biology, especially on rural or environmental science courses, that the applications of science were more apparent.

Relevance to other subjects in the curriculum and to industry was also mentioned by girls. 'Industrial chemistry is closely linked to geography, which many girls find more interesting than physics. This could be developed even further to include aspects which are linked to subjects such as domestic science and biology - again subjects which girls often find interesting.' And again: 'I wish we had more outings so that we could see how the experiments done in the classroom are put to practice in industry.'

The applied subjects, including home economics, sometimes had a scientific content, and a science qualification or experience, including physics or chemistry, was required for some A-level and further education courses. That had influenced a few girls' choice of science subjects, particularly chemistry and biology. In one school, chemistry was compulsory for those girls opting for the O-Ievel food and nutrition course. In one or two of the schools, the choice of physics and chemistry, particularly chemistry, was probably affected by relative weaknesses in the teaching of biology in those schools.

27. A deliberate attempt to make the applications of particular relevance to them was sometimes requested by girls. 'I think what I like about chemistry is that you don't always do work that appeals to just boys. The work you do is a mixture of things for both girls and boys.' 'I would try to relate it more to everyday things that would probably interest girls more, such as how equipment in the home works.' Another girl expressed the view more strongly: 'I would make the work especially interesting for the girls just to show the boys what physics is like for us at present.'

Girls more often expressed an interest in 'people' and life, hence they had a more favourable attitude towards biology. This was well illustrated in a lesson on radioactivity where girls were particularly interested in the effect on the human body; how can it be that radioactivity is harmful, and yet it can be used in therapy? On another occasion the sequence of a television programme showing the effect of oscillations on a foetus inside the mother caught the attention of the girls immediately. Even where science was popular, a less favourable attitude of girls towards physical science was general, as the comments from one girl illustrate: 'I think that the teaching of physics and chemistry has very little to do with the fact that girls tend not to study them ... It is the subjects themselves which do not appeal ... Both are impersonal types of studying,learning facts rather than developing your own opinions and personality as in a subject like English or even foreign languages ... Girls like subjects which have to do with life and people ...'


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Lower school work

28. Observation of pupils' work, classes in progress and conversation with pupils suggested that the combined science courses observed with 11-13 year old pupils (only one of the survey schools offered separate physics, chemistry and biology at this stage) were generally successful in arousing the interest of the majority of pupils, both boys and girls. The main problems observed arose during the third-year courses. Most schools offered separate physics, chemistry and biology schemes with specialist teachers as a basis for the options in the fourth year, although a few retained combined science for the least academic groups. Teachers said that courses were designed to be a terminal point for the majority of pupils in that discipline; or to be an extension and consolidation of the earlier science work; or to be a 'launch pad' for the examination courses in the fourth and fifth year for those who chose to continue. In the majority of schools the third of these aims was prominent, particularly in physics and chemistry, although several science departments had given attention to the other two, and the courses consequently had a wider appeal. In biology the human aspects were often emphasised for those unlikely to continue with this subject. Even in these schools, third year courses were commonly seen by HMI as being the point at which interest waned. Pupils frequently found considerable difficulty in adjusting to the more abstract nature of the work in physics and chemistry and to the increased pace. The extent of practical work sometimes declined markedly and more passive learning, such as note taking, was stressed. The girls often saw less point in their studies, particularly in physics, and began to ask for more work to be based on practical applications and everyday situations.

29. Third-year courses designed to maintain the interest of pupils while they were deciding on their options encouraged many more girls to continue their studies. One physics department was particularly successful in attracting many girls. Interesting lessons were noted in which abstract ideas were developed from concrete, observable examples by using laboratory models. In one of these, a consideration of the pattern of waves breaking on a beach led to the setting up of a ripple tank to model this shelving beach, and ideas of wave refraction were developed. In another school, girls recognised and appreciated the attempts by the physics teacher to collect examples of domestic machinery which he thought more likely to arouse their interest than those referred to in the text book. Reorganisation of a third year chemistry scheme around interesting topics which were clearly relevant to the world outside the school laboratory, including industrial applications, had been followed by a marked increase in the number of girls opting for it at the end of the year. But such approaches meant that the more abstract and conceptually difficult work was pushed back into the fourth and fifth years, which only delayed the emergence of the problems. A pupil commented: 'In this school third years are given a false impression of science, especially physics. It is mainly practical work, therefore it is interesting. In the fourth or fifth years this changes. It is like being tricked into taking the subject by making it look as good as possible in the third year. In the third year I would try to show how it changes and do some examples of things which would


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be done in the fourth and fifth years. Therefore girls would know what to expect and wouldn't be so put off.' A more gradual approach was required, but these problems arose because of the pressures of an over full examination syllabus. The teacher commented: 'The dead hand of the highly conceptual O-Ievel syllabus imposes itself on the third year. We really are in a cleft stick. Design an interesting third year course and you persuade pupils to opt under false pretences. The syllabus then has to be rushed and you become more didactic, less investigative and less practical. What do you do?'

Examination work

30. Fourth-and fifth-year courses were dominated by the requirements of the examination. Examination syllabuses rarely stressed the relevance of the science, and examination questions did so even more rarely. How the work could be applied outside the classroom was seldom a starting point for laboratory enquiry. In one school the more interesting and helpful teaching methods continued into the fourth and fifth years, the pace was more relaxed, and physics and chemistry, as well as biology, were justifiably popular with boys and girls. Unfortunately the O-Ievel examination results were disappointing, but this may have been due, at least in part, to the open admissions policy.

31. In one of the schools visited as a preliminary to the main exercise a particularly large proportion of girls, at all levels of ability, followed physical science courses. The head of science had conducted her own survey of girls' views. The results closely followed the findings by HMI in the other schools. In general the girls appreciated:

finding out about how things work and making things that 'work', ie technological curiosity;
doing practical work, especially their own experiments and simple investigations;
the applications of science to industry and especially to everyday life;
enthusiastic teachers who are interested in their subjects, sympathetic to pupils' difficulties, and take time to explain.
The adverse comments focused on mathematical aspects (eg formulae in physics and equations in chemistry) and on theoretical parts that had inadequate practical or observational support (eg atomic and molecular theory), all of which caused difficulties in understanding. The girls frequently found that highly conceptual aspects were unduly rushed. One of the sixth-form girls summed up many of the feelings of the girls and many of the others interviewed: 'I like school chemistry most, especially the learning about processes connected with modern living and technology. Though I don't enjoy school physics quite as much, I enjoy immensely acquiring the knowledge of how things work and why. I like having the specialist knowledge as this cannot be picked up incidentally. Some areas have been difficult to understand. Some aspects have been rushed because the teacher feels it is easy himself and should be for you too. Too few examples are given. Large blocks of new work are thrust at you and if one cannot digest it before the next lot of new work comes a barrier is built up against accepting that


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subject. I think the only way to make the science course appeal to more girls would be to make it easier and that would be of little value if the terminal exams were still as difficult as they are now. Areas of the present course must be more carefully structured first, broken down into units that could be taught thoroughly and learned so that the girls already doing science do not give up and so that more might be encouraged to do it.'

32. Many of the improvements desirable were exemplified in one of the lessons observed in a physical science course. It was concerned with pollution, and in particular with sulphur dioxide as an air pollutant. The group (twenty in number, ten of whom were girls) was following a CSE course in integrated science, though the teacher hoped that a few would take an O-Ievel examination. The lesson started with the teacher asking the pupils to think back to the film on oil refining shown during their last lesson. By questioning, the teacher checked the technical terms used in students' answers, eg refining, viscous and fractional distillation. This discussion raised the problem that when crude oil is distilled the industry has little control over the proportions of each component obtained directly by primary distillation. Pupils offered petrol as the product for which demand exceeded natural supply. One pupil referred to 'cracking', a term which was then discussed and explained. The teacher elicited information by precise, carefully designed questioning which involved all pupils irrespective of sex or whether or not they put their hands up. No answers were rejected - all were used to elicit further information. The idea of a fuel was pursued. One pupil, putting this into the context of the film seen, offered a word he had remembered - 'hydrodesulphurisation'. The teacher immediately asked what it meant and, in order to help, suggested that they ignored 'hydro'.

This questioning established that sulphur was removed from the fuel. Why? Before attempting to answer this, the teacher proposed looking at the properties of sulphur. The pupils were called around the demonstration bench and asked if any of them suffered from chest or breathing problems. After further questioning, the pupils suggested that the reason for removing sulphur was to prevent it burning. The teacher proposed burning sulphur and examining certain properties of the product. A reason for burning sulphur was thus established.

After conducting the experiment the teacher asked the class for their observations. In the experiment a gas jar of oxygen was used, and this led to questioning about the composition of air and why the sulphur burned more brightly in oxygen than in air. The pupils gave the name of the product produced by the reaction. They were then asked to suggest what might happen to the gas - sulphur dioxide - in the atmosphere. One suggestion was that it would mix with the air and disappear, another that it would get into the air we breathe and make us cough, and a third that it might react with substances in the air. The teacher took up each one in turn. It was significant that in answer to the second suggestion he asked where the highest concentration of sulphur dioxide might be found, thus bringing in industrial location and an element of geography. During the discussion of the third point, it was


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soon suggested that water vapour (or rain) in the atmosphere would react with the gas. The teacher then proposed that they test this by adding water to their sulphur dioxide. The class noted that the solution was acid and it was eventually identified as sulphurous acid. The lesson so far had taken 25 to 30 minutes.

The class was then told that their practical work was to examine the effects of a solution of sulphur dioxide on the materials with which it might come into contact. The items chosen were metals, fabrics and building materials, a vastly different set from those normally treated. The class, following instructions, broke into groups to undertake the practical work. After the practical work, the results were discussed and related to the likely effects in the community at large. Articles from the New Scientist were available, all of which dealt with pollution, its effect on the community and its cost. The lesson was rounded off with a general discussion of atmospheric pollution. The total time for the lesson was 65 minutes.

33. Eight of the ten girls said that the lessons, and the science dealt with, helped them to understand something of the way science affected their lives. Two girls, both possible O-level candidates, stated that they had chosen this course because they wanted a broadly based science course and not the separate sciences. They were all agreed on the interest practical work created. One girl in particular spoke very enthusiastically about the course and about its relevance as far as she was concerned. Their books showed many signs of the work having been related to the community, with the problems it raised also being mentioned. The questioning technique of the teacher was impressive. It had been well thought out and embraced all students equally, no one being allowed to opt out. All answers were used, none being rejected. The work was carefully built up, reasons for carrying out the work were established, and the science and practical work were closely related to the outside world. The teacher's approach and emphasis were his own and not directly linked to the syllabus followed, which on paper was fairly traditional. It did, however, illustrate the possible openings available to a teacher. Of course, the improvements are desirable for boys as well. Science was also popular with boys in the schools visited (cf Tables 4 and 5).

Compulsory science

34. Some schools have prevented pupils from opting out by making physical science compulsory. It was of interest to note the attitude of girls. Few showed strong resentment over this and some gave positive approval. 'I think it should be compulsory. Because if you don't try it you will never know if you could have passed the exam; you will never know if you would have enjoyed the lessons. It is a complicated subject and needs a lot of concentration, if you "switch off" for a minute the whole object of the lesson is a blur and a waste of time. Also at the age this subject is made optional you may not understand the importance of this decision. Then later in your life wish you had studied it. It is a highly thought of subject and proves at the end of all the struggling to be worthwhile.'


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Staffing and resources

35. In those schools where science was a popular choice among girls the pressure on staffing, laboratories and equipment was most apparent. Science retained an adequate time allocation despite these pressures - at least four, and usually five or six periods per 40-period week in years one and two, six periods per week in year three, and four periods per optional subject in years four and five. The proportion of the school staff teaching science in the survey schools was 15 per cent as against a figure of 13.1 per cent in the HMI national survey of secondary schools.*

Teaching staff

36. Most of the departments used well qualified and experienced teachers in years one and two. Pupils thus formed a good impression of science at an early stage. In one school where few girls took physics at CSE level no physicist taught in the lower school. Because of a shortage of physical science teachers there was pressure in other schools to withdraw them from combined science teaching in the first two years, with the consequent danger that this could lead to excessive emphasis on the biological aspects of science.

37. In general the teachers were enthusiasts, anxious to widen the appeal of their subject. Many had been closely involved with science teaching developments; almost all the departments had been affected to a large degree by curriculum development projects over the past decade. The most successful of the teachers were sympathetic to the pupils' difficulties and took time to explain things - traits seen by the girls as being particularly important. Approximately one-third of the science staff had previous industrial experience but in only one of the schools was this used in science teaching and career work. Science teachers were frequently involved in extra-curricular activities outside science, eg the choir or orchestra, drama productions, outdoor pursuits, school journeys and the school sports teams. Although no direct relationships could be established, it did seem that these characteristics helped to develop personal relationships and improve the 'image' of science teachers in the eyes of the girls.

38. The proportion of women in the science department was frequently the subject of comment by girls. 'Although physics and chemistry cannot really be thought of as boys' subjects any longer, a great many of the teachers still tend to regard them as such. The fact that the majority of these teachers are male does not help the situation. If more women teachers were employed to teach these subjects, it might help more girls to realise that chemistry and physics are just as much for girls as for boys.' However, on this survey there was no clear relationship between the popularity of science among girls and the number of women teaching science. Nor did they in general involve girls more effectively in class than men did. In one school with a high proportion of women scientists (almost half), there was little attempt on their part to involve girls through questioning. The girls remained a passive group peripheral to the main classwork. Many girls taking physics claimed to have little real understanding of class work and used

*Aspects of secondary education in England. HMSO.1979.


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text books at home in an attempt to keep up with their work. The ratio of women to men teachers in the sciences and mathematics was no higher overall in the schools inspected during the enquiry than the average recorded in the HMI survey of secondary schools.* The ratios were 0.44 in the schools inspected, 0.49 nationally. To put it another way, about 30 per cent of teachers of mathematics and science are women. During the course of the enquiry, several teachers suggested that in one respect women science teachers had an advantage over men. In several of the schools they had been able to question established practices where they saw them as being to the further disadvantage of girls; the woman who was head of science in one of the schools had seen a marked improvement over several years in the number of girls taking physics and chemistry. One school had previously had women as head of physics and chemistry. The headmaster was convinced of their value in influencing girls' choices in the past. HMl's view, however, was that both men and women teachers could be remarkably successful in making their subject appeal to girls, and that there was no tendency for women to be more successful than men.

39. Laboratories

Laboratory accommodation in the majority of the schools was satisfactory in quantity and quality; most schools had at least one laboratory for each form of entry. Even so, they were intensively used and some lessons were taught in classrooms. One of the schools had a severe shortage of laboratory accommodation, which threatened the position of girls in science. Evidence from other schools suggests that boys may be given preference, particularly in physics, if numbers have to be iimited because of shortage of staff or accommodation. Schools have, in general, been designed and staffed on the implicit assumption that many pupils will opt out of the physical sciences at the end of the third year; in practice a disproportionate number of girls opt out.** Falling rolls may reduce the effect of laboratory shortages.

40. Finance

The science department allowances varied considerably from school to school (see Appendix 1, Table A1). Several of the departments were receiving, or had recently received special LEA grants for curriculum development, new accommodation or other extensions of provision. Almost all of the schools were well provided with basic equipment for the courses on offer, often through generous provision in the past. It is to be hoped that despite financial restraints the extent of practical work will be maintained, as its reduction seems likely to have a detrimental effect on the popularity of science, particularly among girls. Success creates a demand for more generous facilities.

The sixth form

41. Although HMI paid most attention to the middle years of the secondary school, some sixth form work was observed. HMI noted that although many of the sixth form girls were of higher academic ability, it was still necessary to make the science relevant to them and the teaching methods supportive to induce girls to opt for A-level

*Aspects of secondary education in England. HMSO.1979.

**Ibid. Table 8B


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physical science courses in greater numbers. The average uptake of science in the sixth form by girls in the schools in the enquiry was near to their national average for A-level science entries (Appendix 1, Table A5) but, for boys, physics and chemistry were more popular than their national average. Those science departments that attracted a high proportion of girls before the age of 16 were in general no more successful than the others in encouraging girls to follow their science studies through to A-level. Those few schools which had been more successful in attracting girls to A-level courses had been assisted by social factors (the nature of the catchment area and of parental aspirations for their girls). In some cases the popularity of science up to O-Ievel was a recent phenomenon and had had little time to affect the sixth form. For girls taking a combination of A-level sciences, career aspirations were dominant; the largest single group aimed for medical, veterinary or dental school or for paramedical careers. Girls were more likely than boys to be following a mixed arts/science course. In one of the schools it was particularly noticeable that girls were not attracted to the sciences at A-level and in the 11 years since the school opened no girl had taken all three sciences at A-level.

Guidance

42. Most sixth-form girls had only a limited knowledge of the opportunities in higher and further education outside the academic disciplines and medical and paramedical courses. Even in schools that gave considerable attention to guidance in year three, there was often less positive advice in year five, for those intending to go into the sixth form. The careers service was less frequently mentioned by these pupils than by those leaving school at 16. Several of the schools operated sixth-form induction programmes in which pupils could sample the courses available. After these, all intending sixth-formers were interviewed by sixth- and fifth-year tutorial staff about the selection of A-level courses. The emphasis of this consultation was, however, on the pupils' ability and interest in the subjects rather than on career opportunities, marketable combinations of subjects or higher education course requirements, except in the more traditional fields such as medicine. A few science departments welcomed speakers from universities, and pupils saw these as being helpful. Information days (often called 'open days'), increasingly being held by universities and other institutions of higher and further education, provided a number of opportunities for the girls in these schools to meet the staff of these institutions and to hear at first hand of the courses available in engineering. Such personal contacts can markedly influence girls' choices (see Appendix 3). In one school the local polytechnic had encouraged contacts from the fourth year upwards. Girls spoke of the information so gathered about science-related further and higher education courses, particularly in pharmacy and environmental health, which had in a few cases influenced them to choose chemistry. (This school had one of the highest proportions of girls following chemistry courses among the schools visited). A girl in another school commented on the value of visits to universities and 'places using complex equipment'.


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4 Conclusions and points for discussion


Bold figures refer to the relevant findings in Chapter 3

Conclusions

This enquiry reinforces the view that the reasons for girls' choice of science subjects (or avoidance of them) at school are complex. The low uptake of the physical sciences in school is a long-standing problem not amenable to ready solutions. The most powerful forces undoubtedly originate outside school, in the home, in society's attitudes, and particularly in opportunities for employment (1-3). Nevertheless there are strong indications that the content of the science curriculum, and the ways in which the work is organised and the subjects are taught - and particularly the careers guidance programme - could do much to influence the girls' choice of science subjects in years four and five (4-31). The evidence from these schools suggests that this influence is much less marked in the transition to sixth-form courses (41, 42). It is also evident that the measures that prove to be popular with girls are also popular with boys; science was popular with both boys and girls in most of the schools (10, 33; Appendix 1, Tables A4 and A5).

The combined science courses observed in years one and two provided an interesting introduction to practical science for many girls (14, 28). An undifferentiated curriculum for boys and girls in craft subjects in years one and two helped to widen this practical experience and establish confidence in handling equipment, tools and materials (4). It was during the third year that the serious problems arose. The third year courses had a crucial role in influencing subject choices (28, 29). Girls were particularly affected by the premature introduction of abstract concepts and excessively mathematical approaches based on too little practical experience, often as a consequence of an undue emphasis on examination objectives (24). Evidence from the few schools where this problem had been identified and tackled suggests that thirdyear work should develop more gradually from the work of the first two years.

Examination considerations dominated the fourth- and fifth-year work (30; cf Aspects of Secondary Education in England, p170). Frequently the first term of the fourth-year course was too abstract, theoretical and mathematical, and pupils failed to see the purpose of their studies. The difficulties of the subject then dominated pupils' thoughts and their lack of confidence was apparent to third-year girls about to consider subject choices. More thought might be given to devising examination courses which develop more naturally from the earlier work and lead to more steady progress. O-level examination schemes, particularly in physics and chemistry, have been devised with future A-level requirements in mind. For girls, many of whom have not as yet really seriously considered A-levels in science, this emphasis is often counter-productive. If more girls are to be encouraged to retain their interest in the physical sciences and enabled to continue


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their studies with confidence, important changes, particularly in examining at 16-plus, appear to be essential. The present courses are unnecessarily theoretical and factually overloaded, and they overemphasise recall at the expense of understanding. This often leads to a hectic pace, rushed treatment with little time for insights and understanding, inadequate practical work and an emphasis on passive note taking and learning, all of which have a detrimental effect on pupils' interest, particularly that of girls.

Points for discussion

The evidence gathered during the enquiry raises a number of issues which deserve the widest possible discussion. These are summarised in the hope that they will stimulate this discussion at various levels in the education service, and encourage action where action is considered appropriate.

LEA policy

a) Science in primary schools, including physical science and craft involving the use of simple equipment, could help to increase the subsequent confidence of girls studying physical sciences. The secondary schools ought to see that they are informed of the nature and content of what is achieved in the primary school (11). Following the publication of the report of the HMI survey of primary schools* some interesting work is developing. Progress should be maintained and secondary school science teachers should be kept in touch with what is going on.

b) Science teachers and those involved with guidance could be assisted to become more aware of opportunities in science-based industries and be more sympathetic to the problems faced by girls studying the physical sciences (5-8). The involvement of the careers service is desirable if this knowledge is to be maintained and updated. However, the study of physical sciences by girls should be seen primarily as an aspect of their general education and not solely as a means of encouraging them to seek careers in science-based industry.

c) As more and more girls study the physical sciences, careful attention will have to be given to the level of provision of laboratories, equipment and science staffing. The staffing in the physical sciences will need to be maintained or even improved to take account of this increase (35, 36, 40; cf Aspects of secondary education in England. Chapter 8, paras 14.9, 14.10).

The school

a) It would be valuable if a thorough guidance and careers programme involving the science department were to precede the choice of subjects so that young people were fully aware of the consequences of their decisions. If spread over a long period of time it would allow early choices to be changed in the light of further information (5-9).

*Primary education in England. HMSO. 1978. Especially paragraphs 5.66-5.84


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b) School-based inservice training and discussion would help to alert teachers to the problem faced by girls in science and to the helpful role that staff can adopt in the classroom (11-33; cf Aspects of secondary education in England. Chapter 8 paras 2.8 and 14.10).

c) A careful analysis by teachers of the balance of the curriculum of individual pupils is necessary to discover the pattern of girls' choices. Science for all, to include physical science, should be the ultimate goal (cf Aspects of secondary education in England. Chapter 8 paras 14.1-14.9).

Science department

a) If the science department were to extract information about science choices from this analysis, it would become aware of the numbers of boys and girls opting for physical science and of the percentages these represent of the year group. Data could then be compared with those of previous years and with national trends.

b) Practical work is a major attraction of science. A more practical approach in years three, four and five, particularly in physics, would help to maintain the interest generated in the early years (12, 13; cf Aspects of secondary education in England. Chapter 8, paras 9.6 - 9.8).

c) Teaching styles play a large part in forming the views of pupils about different subjects. Over-theoretical note-taking approaches are not liked by most girls and boys (16; cf Aspects of secondary education in England. Chapter 8, paras, 12.23, 12.24).

d) The third-year courses require special attention if an abrupt change of style from the more interest-based approach of years one and two to the more formal requirements of the examination courses is to be prevented. A gradual change is required with a conscious building upon earlier experience while still giving a taste of, and providing an adequate basis for, what is to follow (28, 29).

e) Coordination of work with other departments, particularly the craft subjects (3), is worth considering so that interrelationships can be more readily exploited. Nowhere is this more desirable than in mathematics where difficulties have a marked influence on girls' confidence in their ability to deal with the physical sciences (24). Further quantitative and graphical work in the early years in science may help to increase competence and confidence. The mathematical aspects necessary could be introducted through an approach coordinated with the mathematics department (cf Aspects of secondary education in England. Chapter 7, paras 8.11-8.15).

f) Scientific topics need to be introduced through their practical applications and the experience of pupils rather than derived from abstract concepts. The choice of real-life examples should reflect the


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interests and experience of girls as well as boys (26, 27; cf Aspects of secondary education in England. Chapter 8, paras 3.5-3.9). It would be advantageous if physics and chemistry were to be more frequently related to problems where pupils can express an opinion. Current trends in curriculum development in science are likely to be helpful in this respect.

g) More care might be taken with the appearance of laboratories. A more stimulating environment is often appreciated by girls (15). However a stimulating environment, or the lack of it, is probably a feature of a science department that reflects other attitudes rather than a factor which by itself affects pupil choices in science.

h) The senior, experienced teachers should be concerned with the younger age groups if possible. It is important that as far as staffing problems allow, those teaching science in the early years should between them or individually be able to cover satisfactorily all the important aspects of the courses, including physical science.

Science teachers

a) All teachers within a school science department should contribute to discussions leading to the formulation of departmental policies relating to girls and science and implement within their own classes the decisions taken.

b) Science teachers should consider involving girls more actively in question and answer sessions and take pains to use examples from girls' experience whenever possible (18).

c) A firm line of discipline is needed so that girls do not become the focus of ridicule in mixed classes when they meet with problems (20, 22).

d) Staff ought to be more sensitive about the problems girls face in science and find methods of giving support and encouragement. Sarcasm and dismissive comments, thoughtlessly made, seem to affect attitudes adversely (19, 20, 21).

Other organisations

a) Examination boards and examiners could do much to improve the image of science among girls by making a close scrutiny of existing syllabus content and examination questions. Examination schemes and questions need to reflect the interests and concerns of young people as well as the conceptual demands of the subject discipline (30, 31). More material of particular interest to girls could be included in physical science syllabuses (27). Opinions expressed by teachers and pupils suggest that examinations at present make unrealistic demands, and radical changes may be required if teachers are further to develop


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teaching methods designed to encourage more girls to take physics and chemistry.

b) Higher education and industry could do much more to encourage girls to take physical science subjects in school and make far better known the opportunities open to both girls and boys (2, 8, 42).

c) Publishers might pay more attention to the presentation and illustration of science books and audio-visual resources in order to reflect the interests and views of women in science (17, 27).





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Appendix 1 Data from the survey schools


Table A1 Schools in the survey


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Notes to Table A1

(1) Science Options. All schools except 7 and 15 offer physics, chemistry and biology in addition to the options indicated:

HB Human Biology
IS Integrated Science
GS General Science
PS Physical Science
BS Biological Science
RS Rural Science
ES Environmental Science

(2) Science Dept. Allowance is per pupil in school (including sixth form) and includes all income (stationery, books and special LEA grants for curriculum development).

(3) Science teaching rooms include laboratories and demonstration rooms devoted mainly to science teaching.

(4) The science staffing ratio is the proportion of school staff who teach science (including HM and assistants).

(5) The ratio of female to male teachers includes science and mathematics.

(6) School 15 has yet to establish its sixth form fully and in school 12 the sixth form is established in the first year only.

(7) School 7. All pupils take a physical science and a biological science course or general science.

(8) School 15. All pupils take integrated science or a topic-based combined science course.





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Table A2 Science subjects studied by girls in fifteen survey schools

It is in physics and chemistry that the most marked differences exist between the enquiry schools and the national average. Biology remains the most popular science subject for girls in almost all schools but the emphasis is less marked in the enquiry schools overall.


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Table A3 Science subjects studied in years 4 and 5: number of subjects taken

When compared to the national secondary survey figures, a higher proportion of girls and boys take two and three science subjects, rather fewer laking one or no science.


Table A4 Average numbers of science subjects studied (1): for boys and girls by year

The enquiry schools overall teach more science to both boys and girls compared to the national survey figures.


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Table A5 Science subjects examination entries at A-level as percentage of all subject entries: by sex of pupils (1)

The schools in the enquiry were no more successful with girls in science at A-level than the national average despite their overall success up to 16. There were, however, improvements for boys in physics and chemistry.




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Appendix 2 National statistics


Table A6 Examination attempts - schools leavers in England and Wales

It will be seen that between 1976 and 1978 there were marked percentage increases in the numbers of girls attempting CSE and O-Ievel physics and chemistry. The percentage increase in the numbers attempting any subject were much less; therefore although school rolls were increasing during this period, there was a gain in the proportion of girls taking physical science subjects.

At A-level the percentage increases are less marked but still considerably higher than that for pupils attempting any subject.




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Appendix 3 Girls and engineering


The number of girls choosing to study the physical science subjects at O-and A-level has been a matter of general concern for some time now and is the subject of the main body of this report. The more specific problem of the number of girls choosing to enter engineering has also been the subject of recent comment. Though these two concerns are clearly related in that entry to engineering courses usually requires a qualification in physics, the second of them has received more emphasis of late as a consequence of the view commonly expressed that as a nation we are short of qualified engineers. Whether this view is justified or not, there remains the need to ensure that girls are offered the same opportunities in engineering as boys.

The British Association's report, Education, engineers and manufacturing industry, implies that additional recruitment to engineering should come increasingly from women entering engineering. The data for graduate engineers are given below.

Table A7 Graduates from all universities in United Kingdom in 1976

Since 1975 there has been an increase in the general level of recruitment into engineering degree courses and a noticeable increase in the number of women as well as men applying for places.

Table A8 Numbers of home students accepted for engineering and technology degree courses


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Despite this trend, conversations with girls in the schools involved in this enquiry showed that many girls (and boys) lack adequate information about engineering opportunities. A number of ways have been devised to improve the flow of information about engineering to schools, and in some instances to girls in particular. Girls' remarks showed that if they were to be attracted to engineering these initiatives need to overcome deep-seated prejudices, the most obvious being the almost universal view that engineering is a masculine pursuit - an attitude perpetuated, and sometimes reinforced, in the home, in schools, by higher education and by industry itself. During the enquiry a number of girls who had been interested in engineering referred to having been put off by remarks from their parents, teachers and peers, female as well as male.

Most option systems permitted girls to drop the physical science subjects before they were fully aware of the consequences of this decision, particularly as it affects entry to engineering degree courses. Most of the schools in this enquiry had made the technical subjects available equally to all pupils in the early years of secondary schooling. While it is too early to judge the effect this provision might have on girls' attitudes to engineering, a few girls were taking these subjects to examination level, particularly technical drawing, and considering careers in engineering and related occupations. There remains, however, the problem of ensuring that girls are aware of the opportunities available. One group of girls expressed the belief it was not possible for them to enter engineering apprenticeships, even though a major local employer had recently opened up the apprenticeship scheme to girls and had taken on one girl from that school in the previous year.

The enquiry showed that more positive support and encouragement are needed for girls considering engineering, and means must be found to ensure that accurate information gets through to schools and to pupils. It takes a brave and forthright girl to go against the opinion of her peers and of her parents; thus support from teachers is essential. Much more could be done to advise girls of the wide range of careers open to them and to question established attitudes; girls frequently indicated that personal contact with engineers and engineering was much more effective than careers literature. One young woman now employed in the electronics industry said: 'Well, it sounded interesting, ... I didn't really want a girl's type of job. And so I went to a seminar, down at the Training Centre. I liked what I saw down there, it looked interesting, so I thought, "If I don't like it I can always pack it in!" And when I tried it I found that I liked it, so I carried on with it.'

Interviews at universities were mentioned by some girls as being in some cases far from encouraging. One girl spoke of having applied to one university which indicated in its prospectus that applications from girls would be welcomed. However, after the interview she came away with the view that the staff wanted only undergraduates of the highest academic standard and that girls were unlikely to reach their stringent requirements. Another girl, applying to a different university, said that she came away with the view that the staff were sceptical of the abilities of girls to keep pace with the requirements of the course. She


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was offered a place conditional upon her obtaining three Cs at A-level, but in conversation with the boys who were also there for interviews, she found that they had been offered places conditional on three Es. It might have been that the department wished to give her a more challenging target, though this was not the impression she gained, and she withdrew her application. Another girl was offered a place conditional on her attaining three Es, while the boys were offered places on three Cs. This girl felt that her academic potential was not being rated as highly as that of the boys and she also withdrew her application. Such examples would suggest that it is necessary for universities to ensure that female applicants to engineering departments properly understand the reasons behind the decisions made by interviewers so that potential misunderstandings are minimised.

Various strategies have been employed to combat the generally poor response of girls to engineering, including the development of schemes to bring pupils into personal contact with engineers, such as the 'Opening windows on engineering' scheme. Practising engineers, carefully selected and rigorously trained, talked with pupils about their job as well as giving information about the structure of the industry, career openings and qualifications. In an interesting example seen in one school, a young woman mechanical engineer responsible for the design of large-scale chemical engineering plant talked to a group of girls. She posed the problem of how to design a plant to make jam on a large scale and asked the girls to consider the various problems. Reference was made to the small-scale production of jam at home, with the hope that in setting the problem in this context it was more likely to be rooted in the girls' experience than if she had been talking about the production of an industrial chemical.

She thus presented a picture of problem-solving and design, offered a rather different image from the traditional dirty, muscular and certainly masculine one most people have of an engineer, and aroused considerable interest among the girls. Unfortunately such talks are not always made available to the most able pupils; sometimes they are arranged after option choices have been made and there is little follow-up material that will give pupils further information.

A number of girls spoke of the value of open days at universities and polytechnics in providing opportunities for informal personal contacts to be established. Several girls had followed up these contacts with applications to university departments, not necessarily the one they had visited. In one of the schools involved in the enquiry the local polytechnic had established contacts which the girls claimed had proved invaluable in increasing their awareness of the opportunities open to them and of the need for science qualifications. There are clearly opportunities also for cooperation with institutions of further as well as higher education. Better careers information likely to appeal to girls is required; one aim of the Women's Engineering Society is to produce this. The professional institutes have recently revised their literature for schools, but the pictures and sketches used in several of the pamphlets show few, if any, women, and the tone of some of them continues inadvertently to present a masculine image. Information is also available through lectures offered by university departments.


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The Engineering Industry Training Board (EITB) has been putting considerable effort and resources into providing girls with information about careers in engineering. Their Engineering Careers Information Service (EClS) has produced a number of leaflets describing the various careers available in engineering and also offers a slide pack and notes for use in talks on careers in engineering given by teachers or representatives from industry. The EITB has also sponsored for 1980 a series of one-week residential courses at nine different universities, aimed at enabling able first-year sixth-form girls to learn more about engineering in the hope that they will seriously consider a career in engineering. This programme, referred to as 'Insight '80', follows upon a successful pilot scheme operated in 1979. Also in 1980 the EITB has made available 50 engineering scholarship awards of 500 per annum, tax free, for those girls who have indicated their intention of looking for a career in the engineering industry and who wish to pursue a degree course in engineering.

The mass media have attempted to reach girls as well as the public at large. A number of the girls spoke about 'Tomorrow's World' with interest. A recent television programme showed women trainee engineers and technicians at work. A second, concerned with women in managerial positions, showed a woman chemical engineer. The BBC's series for schools, A job worth doing, has included a programme on electronic engineering which featured a girl apprentice. In addition, the large science-based companies have produced films and booklets on engineering, all of which give greater prominence to women in the profession, while the Schools Information Centre on the Chemical Industry has produced a slide set on chemical engineering. A great deal of effort has been put into promoting engineering and technology by PETT (Project Engineers and Technologists for Tomorrow) through their 'Young engineer for Britain' competitions, which now attract entries from girls. A film Engineering in medicine, made especially for schools by PETT and available from the Central Film Library, is likely to appeal to girls.

One of the Science and Technology Regional Organisations (SATROs) has, since 1972, organised in conjunction with a university an annual conference for senior girls on 'Girls in engineering'. These conferences have been well attended; they have sought to present the career opportunities in engineering at all levels, paying particular attention to the experience of women engineers. The last conference featured a woman who had been persuaded to consider engineering at the first of these conferences and had now returned as a practising engineer. It was not possible to visit this conference but HMI observed a similar venture organised by another SATRO, again in conjunction with the engineering departments of a university, but this time in cooperation with a polytechnic. This was a three-day conference for sixth-formers, boys as well as girls, and included talks, visits to the university and polytechnic departments and a day with a practising engineer in industry. The few girls who attended were, like the boys, extremely interested in what they had seen and heard but few were persuaded to consider a career in engineering. At least they were now making a better-informed decision.


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The civil engineering department of one university visited began a few years ago to look seriously at the problem of attracting girls on to its courses. At that time the department was receiving some five to fifteen applications from girls out of a total of 1,000 applicants; one girl was, as a rule, accepted each year. The department invited applications from girls and began to look carefully at them, to counsel girls at interview and to help them with their obvious difficulties over such matters as lack of confidence and possible career outlets. Girl interviewees are paired with women undergraduates for the day, and overnight accommodation is provided if necessary. Undergraduates visit schools to talk about engineering and their courses. Currently the department has 80 to 90 women applicants a year, of whom approximately 20 are accepted. It is interesting to note that of some 120 girls at present following undergraduate courses across the country in civil engineering, 50 are in this department, and there is no evidence to suggest that these numbers have been achieved at the expense of other universities. Several of these women undergraduates spoke of the value of the personal approach, in this case at interview. Several spoke of the value of open days in providing opportunities to talk to lecturers and to find out about courses and prospects.

The EITB's scholarship scheme for girl technician apprentices, which started in 1976, now operates in London and Birmingham.This two-year course for girls involves instruction at a local technical college, off-the-job training at a training workshop and work experience in local companies before they finally seek employment. Selection of the girls taking part involves the analysis of the application forms and school reports, the assessment of academic potential (O-Ievels, even in mathematics, are not a prerequisite), including a mechanical comprehension test and an interview to establish the extent of their interest and parental support.

To date, the number of girls studying engineering at all levels remains small, and the results of the initiatives encountered during the enquiry have yet to be assessed. However, these and similar initiatives deserve continued encouragement and support from schools concerned about widening the opportunities available to girls.



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Appendix 4 Bibliography


HMI. Science Supplement Paper Curriculum 11-16. Working papers. DES, 1977.

Hinton K. (ed). Appendix 2 Feminine intellect demands of science. Women in science. SISCON Project Science in a Social Context, 1976.

Ormerod M.B. and Duckworth D. Section G Girls and science. Pupils' attitudes to science. NFER Publishing Co, 1975.

Gardner P. L. Sex differences in achievement, attitude and personality of science students: a review. Research in Science, 1974.

Miller R. Equal opportunities. A careers guide for women and men. Penguin, 1978.

HMI. DES Education Survey 21. Curricular Differences for Boys and Girls. HMSO, 1975.

Kelly A. Women in science: bibliographic review. Durham Research Review, Vol. 3 No. 36, Spring 1976.

Keys W. and Ormerod M.B. Some sex-related differences in the correlates of subject preference in the middle years of secondary education. Educational Studies Vol. 3 No. 2, June 1977.

Harding J. Sex difference in performance in science examinations. Centre for Science Education, 1978.

Backhouse J.K. Section III Sex differences in science subjects 1973. Comparability of grading standards in science subjects at GCE A-level. Schools Council Examinations Bulletin 39. Evans/Methuen, 1978.

Smithers A. Girls in science. University of Manchester, March 1978.

Rauta and Hunt Fifth-form girls: their hopes for the future. Office of Population Censuses & Surveys Social Survey Division, 1972.

Garai J .E. and Scheinfeld A. Sex differences in mental and behavioural traits. Genetic Psychology Monograph Vol. 77 pp169-299, 1968.

HMI. Primary education in England: a survey by HM Inspectors of Schools. HMSO, 1978.

HMI. Aspects of secondary education in England: A survey by HM Inspectors of Schools. HMSO, 1979.