Rockwood Academy is getting girls into STEM

New data published by the Department of Education shows that school girls in England are substantially less likely than boys to consider taking Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at A Level than boys. Not only that but girls enjoy STEM subjects less than boys, and girls they are less likely to say STEM is their best subject. School Standards Minister Nick Gibb has used these findings to call on teachers, parents and society in general to challenge and dispel misconceptions some girls have about STEM subjects.

At Rockwood Academy, they are leading the way by embracing and embedding equality and diversity in all they do. No child, no matter their background or gender is left behind. That’s why offering girls – and especially those from BAME backgrounds – opportunities to get hands on experience and make informed decisions about STEM subjects is a huge priority.

Rockwood, part of CORE Education Trust, integrates STEM in a practical way across the board. Engaging girls in STEM through projects, such as partnering with a local engineering firm, Atkins Global, captures their interest long after a 30 minute lesson is over.

Getting them involved in real life engineering solutions – Year 10 girls at Rockwood are currently helping to come up with engineering solutions for the Commonwealth Games in 2022 – moves away from abstract and traditional concepts that are easily forgotten, and makes these meaningful life experiences for them.

In the run up to the International Women’s Day next month girls from Rockwood will visit Aston University to celebrate with other female students the successes of engineers before them and explore their own career prospects.

Teachers at Rockwood have found that one of the biggest barriers to their girls taking up STEM subjects is accessing opportunities beyond their community, so building and developing long term relationships with engineering companies and universities gives not only the children, but also very importantly their families, more confidence when it comes to choosing STEM subjects. It enables them to make informed decisions together, and understand in real terms how A level and university choices link in to their career plans.

At Rockwood, student voice feedback tells them that careers advice doesn’t work as an add-on. So they are now working with Year 8 girls to empower them to consider STEM from a young age and inspiring them throughout their school journey. They do this by inviting women working in engineering into school so they can begin to form relationships with mentors, embedding career discussions in to the entire curriculum and instilling a real focus on problem solving in all subjects.  For example, in Geography students work in groups to propose innovative solutions to plastic pollution.

Rockwood’s focus on STEM is seeing results, with over 32% of female students going on to take up A level sciences – a 12% increase compared with last year. Rockwood has also seen an equal balance of girls and boys choosing to study physics and computer science at Key Stage 4. These subjects are no longer dominated by boys.

Ms Sofia Darr, headteacher at Rockwood Academy, said:

“This is about transforming how we’re teaching maths and science. It’s a real shift from a traditional way of teaching STEM subjects, to a hands-on approach of getting our girls to engage – ultimately so they can see clearly how what they’re learning links to the world of work. In the past, examples used in the STEM curriculum focus on male athletes or male engineers for instance. Our pupils are designing, making, building for themselves – so these examples go out the window and they now have their own experiences to draw on.”

Adrian Packer, CEO of CORE Education Trust, said:

“Ultimately we have a responsibility to ensure that our workforce reflects society. At CORE Education Trust we pride ourselves on putting equality and diversity at the heart of all we do and Rockwood lives and breathes that mission. Initiatives like this are what makes Rockwood Academy so special.”