Now the Institute of Physics (IoP) has launched a pilot programme to encourage more girls to pursue the subject to A level and to consider careers in science.
The initiative will run for the next three years, funded by a £201,000 donation from the Drayson Foundation, a charity that supports projects in healthcare and the education of young people.
The money will enable the IoP team to work with a cluster of six secondary schools and a selection of primary schools in the Thames Valley region to find ways of reducing the gender imbalance of youngsters taking A level physics.
The project aims to increase the confidence of secondary school girls in the subject and will encourage them to visit primary schools as ambassadors for physics.
The IoP will also share best classroom practice with teachers, helping to ensure that physics teaching methods appeal to girls as much as boys, and will work with schools’ senior management teams to combat gender stereotyping in all subjects.
Lady Drayson, a scientist who set up the Drayson Foundation with her husband Paul in 1999, said: “As someone who read physics at university and whose whole life has benefited from studying the subject, I know how important this issue is.
“Physics is one of the oldest academic disciplines and one of the most important. It provides the key to understanding the most fundamental aspects of our universe and to meeting the challenges that we face in the 21st century.
“It is vital that women play a full part in this exciting future and we are delighted to support this excellent initiative by the Institute of Physics to understand what works in helping girls to study physics at school.”