Penwortham Priory Academy is leading the way in women in ICT and calls for gender disparity to be addressed

Nationally, female take-up of Computer Science GCSE is low, and the school hopes to change this.

Monday, 25th October 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 25th October 2021, 1:34 pm

Penwortham Priory Academy in Penwortham is leading the way in women in ICT, with a fully female department, and will be taking part in a regional project to further encourage female take-up of STEM subjects, as numbers nationally remain low.

The school currently has three ICT/Computing female teachers and one of them, Salma Qadri, admits that such female representation is unusual and she is trying to do something about it.

Nationally, statistics say just 19 per cent of tech roles are held by women, whilst only 20 per cent of Computer Science GCSE students are female.

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Year 10 Computing students, Katie Read and Megan Heaps.

Mrs Qadri, the school's ICT leader, said: “This indicates the problem starts at a young age so we are working with teens to encourage them to consider tech careers.”

The Lancashire Careers Hub and Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership have secured a research project funded by, and in collaboration with, The Careers and Enterprise Company, in order to promote tech careers amongst female students in Lancashire.

Penwortham Priory Academy has been identified as one of only eight schools to participate, due to their strong track record of delivering Computer Science GCSE.

Mrs Qadri explained: “The aim of the project is to increase the take-up of Computer Science GCSE among girls through the delivery of high-quality, locally tailored STEM related careers activities.

Penwortham Priory is taking part in research project which encourages female interest in tech roles.

“It will be delivered to Year 8 girls with 30 tracked as part of the project.

“At Priory, we have myself, Mrs Danielle Saunders and Mrs Donna Crank delivering ICT/Computing and that is unusual to have three female teachers.

“Our mission is to make more girls opt for the subject.”

One of the female students who has chosen to study Computer Science GCSE at Priory, Megan Heaps in Year 10, said: “It’s fun to learn about computers and how they work.

Year 9 Priory students (from left), Katie, Lucy and India.

“My mum has got a degree in Computing so I have always been interested. I guess it is male-dominated but that hasn’t put me off.”

Another Year 10 Computer Science student, Katie Read, who wants to work on the software for aeroplanes at Bae Systems, added: “When you go on a website, I am fascinated by the fact someone built that and how they do it.

“I love aeroplanes and my dad works at Bae so it’s my dream to work there, in aerospace.”

Meanwhile, Year 9s at Penwortham Priory Academy are considering their GCSE options currently, and three female students told the Post that Computing is on their agenda.

One Year 9 pupil, Lucy Bonney said: “Computing is cool, it is something I am interested in. I want to learn new things about it and I am considering it as an option.”

India Pilkington said: “It is one of my favourite subjects and I love the teacher Mrs Saunders. The fact she teaches, and they are all female teachers at Priory, inspires me more to take it as one of my options.”

Katie Hull added: “I am more an outdoors type so I haven’t yet decided what to take as my options. I am not surprised it is more male dominated but it is something I am thinking about.”

ICT and Computing departments have seen large changes in recent years, as in 2019, the Information Communication Technology (ICT) GCSE qualification was phased out and replaced by Computer Science, a course which has proven to have an even smaller female take-up.

According to ComputerWeekly.com, whilst the overall number of students in the UK taking computing GCSEs in 2021 increased from last year, the number of girls taking the course declined for the second year in a row.

STEM schemes aimed at female students, such as the research project involving Penwortham Priory Academy, are hoping to reverse this trend.