England's schools suffering from 'science deserts', minister warns

7th May 2014 at 13:51

England’s school system is suffering from “science deserts” where too few teenagers, especially girls, are studying the subject, ministers have warned.

At half of all mixed state schools, there are no girls studying physics at A-level, according to education minister Elizabeth Truss.

She said that while more youngsters have been studying the sciences at GCSE, beyond this point the "pipeline of talent is broken".

Her warning came as chancellor George Osborne said the nation needed to change the perception that science and engineering were part of Britain's "great industrial past".

The ministers were speaking at an event at the Science Museum in London to mark the launch of a new campaign to get more young people to study science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) in a bid to fill the growing skills shortage in these industries.

As part of the effort, new maths and physics “chairs” will be created from PhD specialists in the subjects. The new chairs will be paid a starting salary of £40,000 – well above that of the average new teacher salary – in a bid to “inject enthusiasm” in schools that are failing to attract students to study the subjects.

Ms Truss said: "The pipeline of talent is still broken at 16... very few girls do A-level maths and physics.
"At the moment, at half of all mixed state schools, no girls do A-level physics.

"We want to eradicate these science deserts. We want every single school to be offering these kinds of science subjects."

Mr Osborne said that just two per cent of girls study physics at A-level. "That's not good enough and that's something we've got to change," he said.

The Chancellor added: "We need to make sure that our kids coming out of school, students coming out of college and university, have the right skills for these brilliant jobs that are being created in science technology and engineering."

He suggested that there is a misconception that Britain does not lead the way in science and maths.
"One of the key things we're trying to challenge in this campaign is that science, engineering and design are all somehow part of Britain's great industrial past.

"They are part of our future," he said.

He cited examples such as a laboratory in London which is looking at growing human heart tissue and Crossrail, a new railway which will run across the capital and the South East, describing it as "the largest infrastructure project in the world".


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