Tag Archives: teaching

STEM subjects lead the way

The number of entries for different A Level subjects in England makes for interesting reading. The top subject is Mathematics which is way ahead with 90k entries, followed by Psychology (76k), Biology (66k) and Chemistry (55k). In fact those four subjects have been the most popular from 2018 onwards.

STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) have dominated A level teaching for many years. In fact, of the ten most popular subjects, seven (Mathematics, Psychology, Biology, Chemistry, Sociology, Physics and Economics)  are STEM subjects.

This is generally to be welcomed, but with a couple of caveats.

First, exam entries do vary by gender across subjects.  I can’t find the gender data for this year, but from Summer 2021 we can see that more girls took the following subject than boys:

  • Psychology: 75% of entries were by females
  • Biology: 63%
  • Chemistry: 55%
  • Sociology: 75%

But more boys took three of the top ten STEM subjects :

  • Mathematics: 39% female
  • Physics: 24%
  • Economics: 31%

The figure for Mathematics is particularly worrying because Mathematics is a basic requirement for so many STEM degrees. The gender imbalance in those degrees is still quite marked. Physics is also avoided by girls – again this is a significant requirement for further study in most Engineering subjects.

And if we look further down the popularity table at Computing, only 16% of entries are by girls. I find this puzzling, having run A Level and BTEC courses in Computing over many years in the 80s and 90s. I can certainly remember a much higher proportion of girls taking the subject each year, and indeed progressing to further studies or employment in the field.

The fact is that girls consistently outperform boys on most A Level subjects (in terms of A/A* grades) including Mathematics, Physics, Economics and Computing. So why are so many girls still reluctant to take those subjects at A Level?

Second, with a preponderance of STEM subjects in the top ten, Humanities and Arts subjects are being squeezed out. This year English Literature has dropped to 12th position. We are all aware that Music and Drama are in serious decline in schools.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Teacher workload – a concern north and south of the border

Yesterday, Nick Clegg gave a speech to public sector workers. His specific focus was on teacher workload. Everyone thinks that teachers work short hours and have long holidays. Yet everyone who has a child actually at school will know how much effort goes in to preparing lessons. And everyone who knows a teacher knows that they spend a lot of their supposed “off-duty” time thinking of interesting lessons or, more likely these days, filling in interminable paperwork. We know that children need to be kept safe and their progress checked, but I get the feeling that the bureaucracy is overbearing and unnecessary. Let’s just give you a small example from my own experience. Every time my child sets foot outside the school we have to fill in a consent form. It’s A4. It has all sorts of medical info on it. It even asks how far they can swim unaided, a skill which is unlikely to be needed when representing the school in a maths competition or reading stories to 6 year olds in the local primary school. We can be filling in one of these forms twice a month. If it’s a mild inconvenience for us as parents, what’s it like for teachers who have maybe 30 of them to collect for each class? Why can parents not fill in a standing consent with all the info which covers the whole year?

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Opinion: We need unqualified teachers and assistants to become qualified

Teacher In ClassroomWe’ve just launched our parent guarantee about ensuring that all state funded schools should only use qualified teaching staff. A great idea, of course we want all teachers to hold a subject related degree and their post-grad certificate in education (PGCE) and their QTS (Qualified Teacher Status). But what about those unqualified teachers already in a teaching role? What about the other staff which support and help educate our children?

I personally work in a secondary Academy (years 7-11) which has some non-QTS staff. Most are excellent educators of children …

Posted in Op-eds | 15 Comments

Education: 59% of Lib Dems say teachers should have formal teaching qualifications

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’ve been publishing the full results.

(There were a couple of results I ran out of time to publish during the Christmas holiday period – I’m publishing them this week.)

Yesterday I reported the results of what party members think about school structures. Today we look at your views on teachers and the curriculum…

59% of Lib Dems say teachers employed by state-funded

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged , , and | 15 Comments
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