Women in Stem, Men in the Arts

If you do a very quick internet search, you’ll find yourself facing a mass of articles, websites and companies tackling the hot topic: Women in STEM.

I’m sure you’ve seen the trend in recent years:

  • How do we encourage women / girls to get into STEM?
  • Why should we get more women into STEM?
  • Famous women in STEM and why you should be inspired by them! (We published such a blog this week to celebrate International Women’s Day and Science Week).

But when tackling the topic, a wider issue often gets ignored.

That issue is diversifying the curriculum for all, not just promoting one subject matter to one gender.

All too often, I hear teachers discussing the benefits of pushing more girls into the traditionally “hard” subjects like Mathematics, but rarely anything to do with encouraging pupils to enjoy all areas of the curriculum, hard and soft (and whatever lies in between)!

The Importance of a Broad, Balanced, Engaging Curriculum

An engaging, diverse school curriculum is your key weapon for enabling children to enjoy learning and succeed.

Get it right and children can develop a love of learning that continues with them for a lifetime, enabling their talents to be realised. Get it wrong and the negative impact will be significant; missed opportunities lying forever dormant.

Ofsted are currently in the process of consulting on their proposed new framework, scheduled for September 2019, and within this is a prominent focus of the quality of education and a high quality curriculum.

Extensive research undertaken by Ofsted has shown that schools (due to external pressures primarily) have often sacrificed a high quality curriculum in order to meet national standards.

We’ve all heard of Year 6 pupils studying only English, maths and science and the wider curriculum unfurling after SATS.

This has resulted in a narrowing of learning and many children missing out on key subjects and topics.

Subjects and topics that they could truly excel at.

Helping Children to Discover Their Talents

It is imperative that a rich, inclusive and broad curriculum is offered in order to enable all children to experience different subjects and themes in order to learn and uncover passions and talents.

Keeping sight of ‘intent, implementation and impact’ – a phrase schools are becoming increasingly familiar with, will serve schools well if taken in the spirit of equality of opportunity.

How Can We Do This?

There are a number of reasons why a curriculum might suffer…

Sometimes it is a teacher’s own preference that impacts on a child’s opportunity to try new things and discover that learning and particular subjects can become a blueprint for their future careers. Indeed, the language teachers actually use can impact upon engagement.

How often do we hear that science can provide opportunity to be “innovative and creative,” rather than perpetually “quantitative?”

As leaders do we routinely encourage boys to access the arts, and girls STEM subjects?

At what point do our own prejudices and unconscious bias surface as we unwittingly guide boys and girls towards different channels?

Using language and approaches that will resonate with different pupil audiences could be the key to widening horizons.

Teachers will also bring in their own subject preferences and this in turn can influence choice and cap opportunity.

Too often I have heard female teachers (at primary level) say they find maths difficult, don’t like teaching computing or struggle with science; and how often do we see male teachers confident in teaching dance, art or textiles?

Sometimes, it is the timetable that restricts a child’s choice as they have to choose one subject over another, particularly when deciding which subjects to study at GCSE / EBacc.

Creative schools don’t buckle under restrictive timetables – choice is woven through.

As teachers our role is to present opportunity, remove barriers and open children’s eyes to the world.

Equality For All

So as we celebrate and promote science week, with a push on engaging girls particularly, let’s not forget the equality of opportunity component – lets promote ALL subjects for ALL pupils, so enabling children to unlock their passions and access what’s out there for the taking.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so feel free to leave a comment below or email us at hello@servicesforeducation.co.uk if you would like to get some advice on broadening your curriculum, encouraging girls into stem and boys into the arts.

Good luck