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STEM Subjects: Uptake by Girls

Volume 701: debated on Wednesday 22 September 2021

We are pleased to see an overall increase in entries for STEM A-levels and GCSEs by girls this year, including a notable 12.7% increase in A-level computing entries. We want to see further progress, and we are funding interventions in STEM subjects such as the gender balance in computing programme to further improve girls’ participation.

One of the biggest barriers to getting students to study STEM subjects is the lack of high quality, qualified teachers in the area, so will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating organisations such as Burnley College in my constituency, and also BAE Systems, which works across Lancashire and encourages and teaches young people the value of STEM subjects? Will she join me in encouraging more employers to sign up to such schemes, so that we can get more children into STEM?

I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the work that is taking place in his constituency, and I extend my thanks to Burnley College and BAE Systems. We recognise the value that early interactions with employers can have for girls’ ambitions, and the Government continue to lead work to enhance STEM outreach. I should point out that secondary schools are expected to provide pupils with at least one meaningful interaction with employers per year, with a particular emphasis on STEM employers, and we will continue to encourage them to do that.

The Minister must surely know that the more emphasis we can put on stimulating young people at the earliest age, the better. Pre-school and infant school—that is the time to have imagination and to get girls interested in maths and science. Does she agree that we need to make special efforts at that early age?

I agree that these things start at an early age. I learned how to code at the age of seven, and I do not think it is a coincidence that I am an engineer by training today. These things make a difference, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that young people, especially young girls and women, are able to pursue careers in STEM.

It is a delight to address my beloved former colleague on the Treasury Bench. Is she aware of the extraordinary work being done in the new model of technology and engineering in a radical new form of tertiary educational institution in Hereford that blends further education and higher education with a commitment to the enfranchisement, support and development of women in engineering?

I was not aware of the fantastic work that is taking place in Hereford, although I suspect that the Minister for Women and Equalities, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), is. I would particularly love to hear more about this, and I would be very happy for my right hon. Friend to write to me and share more about what is taking place there.