How can we increase girls' uptake of maths and physics A-level?

Rachel Cassidy, Sarah Cattan, Claire Crawford, Siobhan Dytham

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned Report


There is a large gender gap in the likelihood of taking maths and physics at A-level, even among high-achieving pupils. Among pupils who achieved grade A or A* (equivalent to grades 7-9) in GCSE maths in 2010, 36.5% of girls compared to 51.1% of boys took maths A-level. Among those who achieved grade A or A* in GCSE physics, just 13.2% of girls compared to 39.3% of boys took physics A-level. By contrast, there is almost no gender gap in the likelihood of taking chemistry A-level amongst those who score highly in the subject at GCSE, and girls are actually more likely to take biology A-level than boys. In partnership with the STEM Skills Fund, we conducted a study to understand the barriers that stop girls from taking maths and physics at A-level. This took the form of a small-scale randomised control trial in which girls in Year 11 who were predicted to achieve at least grade 7 (equivalent to at least grade A) in maths, physics or combined science GCSE were offered financial support in return for applying to study physics or maths A-level. As part of this trial, we surveyed 266 girls, as well as a senior staff member across 40 schools, about girls' A-level subject choices and what drives them. We also conducted four focus groups with 6-8 girls in schools in Bolton, Hull, Birmingham and Portsmouth to discuss these reasons in more detail.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherInstitute for Fiscal Studies
Commissioning bodyDepartment for Education
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)978-1-912805-08-2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2018


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