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Education | ED03 | Summer 2016

A Wealden Times Magazine

Sponsored by Tunbridge

Sponsored by Tunbridge Wells going awry somewhere in the UK. Obviously there is no intrinsic reason why women can’t do the job as well as men, albeit that they are not the same and bring a different perspectives and skill sets. There are lots of capable girls whose skills and talents are not being directed effectively, who would respond positively to the challenges and rigour of STEM subjects, given half the chance. The workforce could benefit from their contribution; we undoubtedly –and urgently- need more female engineers. Similarly there may be boys who feel they are being pressured into STEM subjects when their talents lie in other areas. What can we do to encourage girls to choose STEM subjects? Encouraging girls to engage with STEM subjects needs to begin earlier than A Level choices- right back to Primary school. We have a high take up of Maths and Science at A level because we expect all girls to study all three sciences from day one up to at GCSE. Many are not confident about their own abilities at the end of Year 9 but when they do well at GCSE [Last year 90% of girls achieved A*/A in Physics, Chemistry and Biology], they have the confidence and ability to continue at A Level and beyond. Furthermore, wherever possible, we encourage girls to keep their options open and balance their A level choices. Most girls will study at least one science or Maths at A level, and similarly those girls focusing predominantly on Sciences often study an arts subject as well. Do children need to choose between arts and STEM subjects? I worry that children are expected to ‘specialise’ far too early in their school careers, and indeed that they are encouraged to categorise themselves as either an ‘artist’ or a ‘scientist’ with different skills. I don’t think that is helpful. We need to be encouraging children to look for links between subjects and how skills complement each other. After all, to be a good scientist, you need to be creative and to write accurately and concisely. Any good piece of writing, or art, needs to be crafted and structured with discipline. What we need to ensure is that children are able to think independently and to make mistakes and learn from them, in a variety of subjects. My concern is that while STEM, or indeed STEAM, is crucially important part of education, we exclude emphasis on creative, artistic subjects at our peril. Advances in science need to have a cultural and moral context, so if we deprive our children of these less utilitarian, but vitally important subjects we are compromising their perspective and our future. Above: Antonia Beary, headteacher at Mayfield One School, many journeys Sutton Valence Preparatory School (Nursery to age 11) Come to visit, the door’s always open • Traditional values, small class sizes • Proven exam success for independent and state entry • Minibus routes across Kent Please contact: T: 01622 842117 | E: leckiea@svs.org.uk www.svs.org.uk 31 www.wealdentimes.co.uk SuttonValenceED03.indd 1 17/05/2016 12:09