Shattering Stereotypes

SEPnet tackles the gender stereotyping found in subject choice for GCSE subjects in schools.

The SEPnet Outreach team is running a pilot project over the 2016 / 17 school year investigating how best physics Outreach Officers can tackle the problem of gender stereotyping in schools.

Why run the project?

In the last few years research by the Institute of Physics (IOP) has shown that the lack of girls taking physics at A-Level is part of a wider problem; gender stereotyping in schools. The report Closing Doors concluded that schools which had low numbers of girls doing physics also had a small number of boys doing subjects which were stereotypically seen as girl subjects. Following this the IOP ran the Opening Doors project which generated a best practice guide for schools looking to tackle gender stereotyping.

From the point of view of the SEPnet partners the lack of diversity in physics is a problem they want to tackle as potential undergraduate physics students are being put-off from studying the subject. Projects aiming to increase the diversity of students taking A-Level physics are then seen as growing the pool of potential physics undergraduates.

What are the objectives of the project?

  • Deliver a year-long programme of activities to six schools in the South East in the 2016/17 academic year.
  • Develop metrics to measure how gender-stereotyping culture can be measured in schools.
  • Kickstart a discussion in each of our schools on how they are gendering different subjects and therefore influencing subject choice.
  • Produce a best practice report for Physics specific Outreach Officers wishing to tackle Gender Stereotyping in Schools.
  • Show a decrease in gender stereotyping behaviour in our pilot schools including teacher’s behaviour, school environment and aspirations of students.
  • Show less gender-biased subject choices made at GCSE for Year 9’s in pilot schools in 2017 / 2018.

Where is the pilot project running?

Three Outreach Officers are running the pilot project at two of their local schools. We welcome interest from secondary schools close to The University of Portsmouth, The University of Surrey, and Royal Holloway University of London. Dr Dominic Galliano, Director of Outreach is managing the overall project.

Who is the programme of activity targeted at?

The main programme targets Year 8 students in schools of all genders. A secondary audience are interested A-Level physics students; part of the main programme will be delivered to the Year 8 students by Year 12 students.

It is intended that out of the six schools the pilot will be run in, half will have sixth-forms within the school, the other half will require a partnership with a local college.

What would we like from the participating schools?

The Outreach Officer will be running the programme in partnership with the school from the start. Each school will carry out additional activities, some based on Opening Doors or original, that will look at the problem of gender stereotyping across all subjects.

Where can I find out more details about the main programme of activity and the rest of the project?

The current version of the project plan can be downloaded here. We welcome feedback, comments and any further queries. Please contact Dominic Galliano on 0207 882 5063 / 07702 363 731 or outreach@sepnet.ac.uk if you would like any further information.