Teacher talk

Vicky Tuck is principal of The Cheltenham Ladies' College
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The Independent Online

Research published at the Girls' Schools Association showed that all-girls independent schools have more girls doing maths, science and modern languages than co-educational schools. Why is that?

Research published at the Girls' Schools Association showed that all-girls independent schools have more girls doing maths, science and modern languages than co-educational schools. Why is that?

The supportive environment and the confidence imbued in students inspires girls in independent schools to take on subjects that are traditionally thought of as the most challenging. In girls' schools there are no gender preconceptions of subjects. As a result subjects such as maths, science and modern languages are very popular. Boys can't be blamed for girls' study choices. If girls shy away from science, maths and languages then it's because of a perception that they are difficult. These subjects require students to develop powers of analysis and a body of knowledge, which takes time and practice.

How many girls take maths, science and modern languages at A-level at your school?

We had 144 girls in the upper-sixth last academic year. Of those, 56 girls took maths A-level, 33 chemistry, 35 biology, 24 physics, 23 Spanish and 24 French. So there is a stable appetite for these subjects.

Should teachers in state schools carry the responsibility for broadening girls' subject choices?

The duty of guiding girls' choices towards a broader variety of subjects should be on the nation as a whole; in the context of the United Kingdom and the global competitive market it is vital for us to have future generations of skilled mathematicians, scientists, engineers and linguists.

Do you think that some students fail to understand the importance of sciences and languages?

When choosing subjects, students should take into account what they enjoy studying, what they feel they are good at and what they would like to do as a career. Science, maths and languages lead to a broad range of careers. It is up to the careers departments in schools to emphasise the importance of these subjects and explain to students how their subject choices can affect future career choices.

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