Getting more girls to consider careers in Science is the stuff of dreams for head teachers up and down the country, but one school in Yorkshire has come up with an innovative solution to promote STEM within the classroom.
Harrogate Ladies’ College has been a pioneer of girl’s education for almost 130 years and its ethos of promoting self-belief and confidence is as strong today as it was in 1893 when the school was founded.
Generations of inspirational women with careers as diverse as Law and news broadcasting form part of the school’s glittering alumni all over the world. Now the Principal, Mrs Sylvia Brett is on a personal mission to encourage more girls to consider university courses and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).
According to STEM Women, an organisation dedicated to promoting graduate career opportunities to girls, ‘the percentage of female graduates with core STEM degrees is steadily growing, however, the split is still just 26%. This figure is also translated in the
female STEM workforce, with women making up 24%.’
Global conversations around the benefits of choosing STEM subjects in schools and universities are beginning to address the gender gap between boys and girls in STEM, but Mrs Brett firmly believes more can and should be done.
‘There is still a shocking lack of women in areas such as engineering and technology. If we’re going to really change this we need to start in schools and empower the next generation of women to make GCSE, A level and university subject choices based on their own personal passions, regardless of gender. This doesn’t mean that all girls will choose STEM subjects of course and nor should they. My passion is to make sure that they choose what is right for them and that they are surrounded by positive female role models who
show them that anything is possible.’
In response, the school has come up with a plan – WISE@HLC (Women in Science and Engineering @ Harrogate Ladies’ College) – which is a programme designed to inspire girls to actively seek out careers in everything from aeronautics to artificial intelligence.
The programme encourages girls to embrace science opportunities, develop critical thinking in science and technology and rewards self-motivation in science subjects. Pupils receive WISE Points and Awards for engaging in super-curricular activities to take their STEM studies further, and for taking part in STEM related extra-curricular clubs and activities. Sixth Form pupils are encouraged to become WISE ambassadors and to inspire younger pupils to choose STEM related subjects at GCSE and A level.
The programme also actively engages with alumni working in STEM careers and holds special events such as Crime Scene Investigation Day which brings in forensic experts. It embeds the sheer scope of Science within the curriculum by making learning both fun and
As an example of a WISE@HLC programme initiative, the School runs a hugely successful Astronomy Club which is open to all year groups and has prompted students to write to NASA about the current energy crisis; take part in Astronomy podcasts; and develop their
own research projects.
‘It’s wonderful to see this huge level of enthusiasm for one of our WISE@HLC extra-curricular clubs and it’s just one example of how our teachers are breathing life into Science subjects and making learning relevant and inspirational for the next generation of women.’
It’s clearly paying off with recent leavers going onto study Astro Physics, Chemical Engineering, Aeronautical Engineering and one pupil now following her dream to become a Formula 1 technician.
‘I firmly believe girls should be themselves – it’s a vein that runs through the heart of the school, in everything we say and do.
‘Our focus is on ensuring girls have the freedom to choose what they want to be and are not be limited in any way by their gender. We all need to play our part collectively in espousing the joy and sheer opportunity of Science and Technology, and the many paths and opportunities these subjects can offer.’
See Harrogate Ladies’ online listing here.