Physics – It’s different for girls

For the last 20 years, only 20% of physics A-level students have been girls, despite about equal success between genders in GCSE physics and science.

In 2011, physics was the fourth most popular subject for A-level among boys in English schools but for girls it was down in 19th place.

The Institute of Physics have recently produced a report to find out why girls are so poorly represented in this subject in the hope that in future, girls as well as boys will see physics as an exciting and relevant subject  that will open up new opportunities for them throughout their careers.

The main findings from the report are shown below:

  • 49% of maintained co-ed schools sent no girls on to take A-level physics in 2011. The figure for all secondary schools is 46%
  • Girls were almost two and a half times more likely to go on to do A-level physics if they came from a girls’ school rather than a co-ed school (for all types of maintained schools in England)
  • Twice the percentage of girls who went on to do A-level physics came from a school with a sixth form, compared to schools that only teach up to age 16 (for co-ed maintained schools in England)
  • For maintained schools in England, the positive effect of single-sex education on girls’ choice of physics post-16 is not replicated in the other sciences

The briefing sheet for parents on how you can support the take-up of A-level physics by girls, is available to download at the bottom of this page.

For more information on this report and the work of the Institute of Physics, please click here.


If your daughter is considering a career in science then you may want to have a look at this website from the EU Commission, which includes profiles of women in science as well as six reasons why science needs them.