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Monday, October 30, 2017

More women in science stems for attitude change | ChronicleLive

Photo: Angela Upex
MARK LANE for chroniclelive.co.uk meets some inspiring North East-based women who are at the forefront of promoting STEM as a career path for females" notes Angela Upex, Commercial Editor, Trinity Mirror North East. 

Eleanor Baggaley
Photo: Eleanor Baggaley

It is evident that if we are to encourage better female representation in traditionally male-dominated industries such as science, engineering and finance, reaching would-be candidates at a young age is not just important – it is critical. But how is the North East faring on this front? Moreover, how is the region doing with regards to younger engagement in the broader STEM agenda? 

One person who is well placed to address this issue is Eleanor Baggaley, the lead for the Great North Maths Hub. Maths Hubs have been established to help schools and colleges lead improvement in mathematics education in England and are playing an important role in raising the profile of the STEM agenda.  

We asked her, initially, about differences between young students in terms of mathematics – their abilities, attitudes and approach to learning. She told us: “In terms of what the students are actually capable of in maths, the balance is pretty much 50-50. However, the difference comes in what the students think their abilities are. Boys who have the same ability as girls are often much more confident about their ability. Girls who achieve similar marks can often lack that same confidence, so they do not see themselves as being of the same ability. 

Some of this is down to stereotyping which is reinforced from a very early age. Although my background is in secondary teaching, the ‘damage’ is often done around the age of 5-8. This is where it needs addressing and then reinforced year on year. 

“The gap between girls and boys studying maths post-16 is wider in the North East compared to many other areas of the country. Professor Sir Adrian Smith, in his report to the DFE, highlighted some of the regions where the gap was wider. The figures should be readily available online which highlight the differences.” 

Baggaley has been involved with The Core Maths Support Programme (at Education Development Trust) since 2014, trying to encourage schools to offer a new level 3 qualification in Core Maths. 

This is aimed at students who have passed GCSE maths but do not have the confidence or the ability to study A-level Maths. “It’s designed to cover ‘real life’ maths such as finance and other quantitative skills required in further study and employment,” she says.

“My experience of this course has seen more girls become interested and seeing a reason why they should study mathematics post-16 even if they haven’t got ambitions for a traditionally mathematical career. 

“Schools do make students aware of career options involving STEM but it often comes back to the confidence of the students, which girls have more of a tendency to lack.” 

Angela Harrison is a director of Green Shift Educational Service Ltd; she is a teacher, examiner, STEM co-ordinator, outreach education, and North East STEM ambassador. Green Shift delivers a variety of STEM workshops (national curriculum or non-curriculum based), after school clubs and children’s science parties to children ranging from primary school age to young adults in Sixth Form.
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Source: ChronicleLive


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