Inspiring girls to be #PrettyCurious about STEM subjects when making GCSE choices…
Right now, many children across the UK will be beginning to pick their GCSE subjects; in Year 8, I’ve just been to the school talk with my eldest because the results at the end of this year will determine the choices they can make in Year 9 when they’ll immediately be put in pre-GCSE sets based on the subjects they choose. I’m happy with the school’s procedure for this, it’s clear and simple which I think takes a lot of unnecessary confusion out of the equation but like everything in parenthood, it’s come around so fast!
Their school suggests one simple thing when deciding what to choose…
‘Do what you love and what you’re good at.’
So our role as parents is to simply help them identify their strong points and encourage them to pursue them. It sounds simple but it’s easy to get caught up in preconceived ideas and big decisions they don’t yet need to make. We are also still burdened with stereotypes and as a mother of a daughter, I’m pleased to have foresight here.
EDF Energy Pretty Curious Campaign
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects where there’s still a large gender gap in girl’s uptake of these subjects at GCSE. This is a gap that mainly appears to increase as students continue further through their education and by employment, women make up just one in four people working in core STEM roles. This does not represent equality or indeed ability with girls generally receiving better grades when studying STEM.
EDF Energy are on a mission to inspire more girls to pursue STEM-based subjects and increase their intake of female apprentices to 30% in 2018 and the good news is that in 2017 they exceeded this number with an intake of 35%! Their vision is to create a future with low carbon energy and smarter solutions and to do this they need to inspire a wide pool of talent from which to recruit from.
STEM Subjects at GCSE
So what are her choices?
At GCSE level Maths is compulsory, as is Science but your school may offer different choices in how you study it…
• Double Science – you study and are examined in Physics, Chemistry and Biology and receive a double grade which counts as 2 GCSEs based on overall performance.
• Triple Science – you study and are examined in Physics, Chemistry and Biology and get a grade for each individual subject.
• Single Awards – you choose which of the 3 subjects (or combination of) you wish to study and be examined on individually.
After this, STEM subjects will make up your options. Your school’s system, the subjects they offer and in some circumstances, performance will determine what you can choose. Computing, Design and Technology, Engineering and other STEM subjects will fall here.
This may be where your child feels restricted and has to decide between subjects they enjoy, want to pursue or are relevant to their ideal future career. In these cases, the best thing to do is check the requirements at A level for subjects to make sure they’re creating as many opportunities as possible. For example, at my children’s Sixth Form they don’t need to have done Computing GCSE to take Computer Science but do need to do well in Maths and Science, highlighting how important it is to focus here!
What needs to change?
At GCSE age, I’d written off Science as boring and something I wasn’t good at yet looking back I have no idea why. I enjoyed Lego building as much as the boys and spent my weekends and holidays playing with Chemistry sets, exploring outdoors, collecting random insects and raising a variety of creatures. Whilst I mainly enjoyed the creative subjects, a grounding in Science would only have positively expanded my options as there was definitely a potential botanist, veterinarian and so much more there – yet no one encouraged this.
As an adult, I’ve found STEM subjects to be some of those that most clearly translate into ‘real world’ skills. I regularly encourage my children to explore and when real life discoveries are relevant to academic subjects, I do my best to point it out. Currently, my 7-year-old is fascinated by collecting rocks so I’ve told him all about geology.
My 11-year-old daughter currently wants to be a make-up artist, her favourite subject is maths and her strongest science. She loves to read and create and coupled with a confident and strong-willed nature I feel she could choose to do anything she really puts her mind to. I’ve told her, like the school, to follow the subjects she’s already doing well at and stressed how Biology could teach her more about the skin she may be putting make-up on and how valuable Chemistry could be if she one day wants to create products.
Just make it relevant.
EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious Website provides a wealth of resources to help you inspire your daughter’s interest in STEM subjects. The Future Me avatar and quiz for teens gives an idea of the STEM career options available that may suit their interests. You can take a Parent’s Quiz too which may help you know which way to guide them.
They’ve also partnered with Lucasfilm and Disney to use the strong female characters of Rose and Rey from Star Wars: The Last Jedi to encourage girls to look at STEM differently.
We were sent a Droid Inventor Kit from LittleBits which had noticeably been branded with these female role models yet still the boys immediately assumed a robot would be for them. I’m ashamed to say how surprised I was at my daughter’s enthusiasm to build this, I too would have made the assumption this wouldn’t be for her, yet you can see on our Instagram Stories and the images here just how much pleasure she got from building him.
Following this she watched EDF Energy’s Virtual Reality Film following the lives of three female EDF Energy employees; Roma, a structural engineer who helped design London’s tallest building, The Shard, Claire C who works on an offshore windfarm as a Research Engineer, and Claire M who’s a coder and co-Founder of crowdfunding website Mode for Me. She was without doubt inspired by these women, whilst also being incredibly wowed by the VR technology of the film!
The world is changing fast; jobs in science, research, engineering and technology will rise at double the rate of other occupations between now and 2023. Our daughters are using technology every day, understanding it is the key to opening so many doors in the future. All we need to do is give them information to know how STEM subjects serve them and then let their own curiosity lead the way.
~ I’m working with EDF Energy and BritMums to promote the #PrettyCurious programme. Visit www.edfenergy/prettycurious for more information and advice. ~