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Why not Physics?

Last month, the Institute of Physics released a report called ‘Why not Physics?

The report looked at how many students studied A-level science subjects in different schools in 2016. The good news is that the picture is a little bit better than when the IOP did a similar analysis 4 years ago.

The bad news is that there are still 44% of schools that don’t send any girls to study A-level Physics*.

As well as looking at the number of students who study physics in different types of schools, the report looks at how well students do in their GCSEs in different subjects, and how that affects their choice of A-levels.

“More girls achieve high grades in GCSE physics than boys, and girls generally outperform boys across the board at GCSE.  However, a smaller proportion of girls have physics in their top four subjects at GCSE (65% for girls compared to 81% for boys). When a student does have physics in their top four results, boys are three times more likely to progress to A-level physics than girls.” pg.18

So, on average, girls tend to be doing well in all of their GCSEs, which means that even though they get a good grade in Physics, they also get good grades in their other subjects, which makes physics less likely to be in their top four subjects.

How do GCSE grades influence what subjects a student chooses at A-level? You might think that students will be more likely choose to study A-levels in subjects that they did well in at GCSE.

You can see in Figure 12 from the report that students are much more likely to study a science A-level if the respective GCSE was in their top 4 results at GCSE.

But what happened if a science was not in a student’s top four subjects.

There is no reason why students have to choose A-levels in subjects that were in their top GCSEs. In fact, there are good reasons relating to progression to university or employment, or simply enjoyment, that mean a student might choose to study an A-level that isn’t in their top 4 GCSEs.

Looking at the graph, boys tend to progress to a science subject that was not in their top 4 at about the same rate regardless of whether it was biology, chemistry or physics.

But wait … Girls are more than twice as likely to choose biology when it wasn’t in their top 4 grades, as they were to choose Physics when it was in their top 4 grades.

Read that again.

Girls are more than twice as likely to choose biology when it wasn’t in their top 4 grades, as they were to choose Physics when it was in their top 4 grades.

Why should this be? Why biology? Why not physics? 

One of the recomendations of the IOP report is that:

Schools should provide effective careers guidance that starts at an early stage, focuses on the next educational phase, emphasises the benefit of choosing certain subject combinations to allow progression to a wide variety of opportunities, and actively challenges gender stereotypes and unconscious biases. pg.8

Here at NUSTEM we are working with North East schools to tackle unconscious bias, and minimise its effects on students.  We offer CPD on unconscious bias for teachers, as well as for those who are involved in advising students about A-level and career choice.

If you would be interested in having NUSTEM work with your school on unconscious bias, then get in touch.

 

*This slightly weird definition means that we can also look at schools which don’t have a sixth form, and track where their pupils go.

New opportunities: GET North resources, Whole School Gender Equality, Computing resource grants

If you’re the sort of person who’s involved and engaged with NUSTEM’s work, these opportunities might be right up your street:

Great Exhibition of the North Teaching Resource Creators

The team running GET North 2018 are looking for help developing teaching resource packs for use across England at Key Stages 2 and 3. Separate packs will be produced to tie into the themes of the Exhibition:

  • KS2: Science, Art and Design, and Design and Technology
  • KS3: Computing, English, and Design and Technology

The organisers are looking to recruit resource creators; professionals who can provide current industry context and support to the resource; and SEN consultants.

Interested? Get the full details and the application form at the GET North website. Deadline 12 noon, 1st December.

IOP Whole School Gender Equality Programme

The Institute of Physics have a long-running project looking at improving gender balance in physics. Their reports and research are valuable and highly influential (they’ve been a key influence on NUSTEM, for example!). Currently 40 schools are part of a whole-school programme, making small changes in their environment which can lead to big changes in student outlook. Funding has recently been secured to expand this programme.

Participating schools will receive whole-school CPD on unconscious bias and gender equality; can nominate a Gender Champion to attend a free 2-day residential course; and will have access to funding to support further work, including dissemination to other schools and partners.

For further details and the contact email through which to express an interest, see the IOP’s website. Also, do keep us informed (nustem@northumbria.ac.uk), as we’re keen to assist in these efforts ourselves.

Community Foundation Raspberry Pi kit funding

This just in… the Community Foundation have up to £2,000 available to support the purchase of Raspberry Pi kits and CPD by primary schools, as part of a new project launched recently by Make Stuff NE and Tech for Life. For more information and to apply for funding, click those links. At the time of writing things aren’t quite working correctly; we think the relevant grant scheme may be this one, in which case it’s a very straightforward (online) form.

Teacher Subject Specialism Training: Secondary Physics

In an attempt to address the shortage of secondary physics teachers, the Department for Education is backing training to support non-physics-specialist teachers (or teachers wishing to return to the profession) in making the transition. A range of training opportunities are available, primarily courses with multiple sessions through the school year from October 2015.

In the North-East, such courses are being offered by George Stephenson High School in Newcastle, The Academy at Shotton Hall, Peterlee (PDF link), The Hermitage Academy in Chester-Le-Street (PDF link), and Carmel College in Darlington (PDF link). We’ve added the first session in the George Stephenson course to our events calendar primarily because we’re hosting it here at Think Lab, but do explore the different opportunities available.

Also be sure to follow the link to the Government page about the scheme. The downloadable training directory there is a bit buggy for me this afternoon, but there appear to be even more opportunities in the North-East than those we highlight above. There are also multiple courses for Maths specialism.

 

 

Evolution CPD

Think Physics, in conjunction with Reading University, is hosting a free CPD session aimed at primary science teachers.

The session will take place on Tuesday 21 April 2015 from 16:30 until 18:30 in Think Lab at Northumbria University.

Light refreshments will be available from 16:00.

The session will be delivered by Chris Hatcher from the University of Reading.

Session outline

fossil fishEvolution and Inheritance will become part of the statutory Science Curriculum for Year 6 students from September 2015. This session will show you ways to bring these tricky concepts to life through hands-on investigations and activities. The team at Reading have developed lesson plans designed to maintain children’s enthusiasm and progress their understanding of evolution while working scientifically. Many of these resources are free to access on their website, and additional resources will be provided in the session. The session also addresses common concerns teachers have about teaching evolution in the classroom and will suggest ways to respond to children’s and parents’ questions.

For more information, please see the Primary Evolution Project, www.primaryevolution.com

Sign up to the CPD by using this EventBrite link:

http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/primary-evolution-cpd-tickets-16086800052

Directions to Think Lab can be found here. We look forward to seeing you in April!

Partnership working

Although the Think Physics project is led by Northumbria University, it is a partnership between 10 different organisations.

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of spending time supporting teachers from one of our partners, North Tyneside Learning Trust.  I was leading a session for primary school teachers about levers, pulleys and gears – which are in the new National Curriculum.

We sorted household objects, created three sorts of catapults, and played with pulleys.  I suspect that I may have lost at least one pingpong ball in the classroom!

The materials from the session are available in here.

2015-03-10 16.26.21

CPD Opportunities in February: KS3/4 Light and Colour, Isaac Physics

We’ve two terrific CPD opportunities coming up late this month, both to be held in our shiny new Think Lab facility at Northumbria University:

Lights, Camera, Images

26th February, 16:30–18:00
This twilight workshop is aimed at those teaching physics at Key Stages 3 and 4: it’s suitable for non-specialists. We’ll investigate a variety of activities for use in the classroom when teaching light, colour and spectra.

Presented in association with the Institute of Physics.

Light refreshments will be provided on arrival.

To book, please contact Think Physics via Annie Padwick, annie.padwick@northumbria.ac.uk.

Isaac Physics Day

28th February, 09:00–15:00
This one-day workshop is aimed at A-level Physics teachers and A-level Maths(mechanics units) teachers, or those intending to teach these subjects.

Delivered in association with Isaac Physics, the workshop will support teachers to develop mathematical problem-solving in a physics context. It will also help teachers prepare their students for physics, engineering and maths courses at University.

Refreshments will be provided through out the day.

For further information or to book a place, please contact events@isaacphysics.org.

Isaac Physics Day – brochure.
(PDF, 600Kb).

Please do drop Annie a line if you’ve any further questions, and feel free to pass this information on to anyone else you think might be interested.

We’ve information about how to contact Think Physics, and how to find Think Lab.

Events

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