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STEM Subjects: A-level

Volume 606: debated on Thursday 25 February 2016

14. What steps the Government are taking to encourage more girls to take science, technology, engineering and mathematics at A-level. (903750)

The number of science and maths A-level entries among girls has increased by 12,000 in the last five years, but the Government are determined to encourage even more girls to study those subjects to help them to secure rewarding jobs in the future. I recently announced that, by 2020, we want to see a 20% increase in the number of girls applying to study science and maths. To achieve that, we will build on an extensive range of Government-funded support for schools.

There are some fantastic STEM schools in my constituency, including Outwood Grange Academy, where I attended a brilliant STEM skills workshop a couple of weeks ago, and Woodkirk Academy, which I visited with the Minister for Women and Equalities last year. Will she join me in praising those schools, which are helping more pupils to consider STEM careers by finding imaginative ways to show them the possibilities that those subjects hold? Pupils have even participated in a LEGO minecraft workshop at Woodkirk.

I welcome the opportunity to join my hon. Friend in praising the work of Outwood Grange and Woodkirk Academies for their excellent work in this regard. During my visits I was impressed to see at first hand how the academies engage pupils in STEM subjects, demonstrating the application of science and maths and promoting STEM careers.

I am sure the whole House agrees that STEM subjects provide exciting, rewarding, fantastic career opportunities for women and girls, but studies show that without some personal experience of STEM careers, girls are unlikely to consider them fully. Why have the Government abolished face-to-face careers advice and made work experience something that girls have to organise for themselves? Will the Secretary of State bring back mandatory work experience?

Actually, we are going to go much further. We have introduced, and are funding, the Careers & Enterprise Company. We shall be investing more than £70 million in careers work during the current Parliament to enable young men and women to be inspired by people who visit schools, by work experience opportunities, by finding out more, and by the Your Daughter’s Future programme. We discussed the gender pay gap earlier. I think it worth noting that those working in careers in science or technology are paid, on average, 19% more than those in other professions, and I think we can all agree that we want more girls to go into such careers.