Research from the Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET) reveals that science themed toys with a focus on engineering, maths and technology are mostly targeted at boys while toys targeted at girls are mostly pink in colour. An analysis of search engines and online toy retailers found that a search for ‘girls’ toys’ led to results of which 89% were pink. A similar search for ‘boys’ toys’ led to more science and engineering related toys. According to the latest data, only 9% of women are part of the engineering work force in the UK. The IET claims that this is down to gender stereotyping which begins in early childhood and heavily influences career choices in adulthood. Mamta Singhal, a toy engineer, says she grew up playing with both girls’ and boys’ toys which included dolls as well as cars and building blocks. According to her the marketing of toys can be a good place to begin altering perceptions of gender in order to encourage girls from a young age to become interested in subjects like physics, maths and engineering. A spokesman from Let Toys be Toys, which campaigns against categorizing toys by gender, has said that many toy manufacturers had made great progress in reducing gender-based labels, and there has been an overall 70% drop in online search options based on gender since 2012.
A new sixth form college in Bletchley Park is to be opened to equip teenagers with the skills required to become codebreakers. The school aims to fill the gap currently not accounted for in Britain’s national security workforce. The boarding school, aptly called ‘The College of National Security’, will be open free of charge to nearly 500 of the most talented applicants and will teach skills including cyber skills, logical thinking and problem solving along with other subjects such as physics, maths and computer science. Alastair MacWillson, chair of Qufaro, the not-for-profit consortium of cybersecurity experts which is responsible for the initiative, considers a cyber threat to be the biggest national security challenge for Britain in the 21st century and estimates that currently there are only 700,000 cybersecurity experts in Europe. The ‘Internet Security Threat Report’ presented findings in 2016 which revealed that nearly 75% of online websites have serious issues around security and privacy. MacWillson is aiming to get state funding for the school from the Department for Education, but if that fails, the school will still be free of charge and will rely on funding from corporate sponsors instead. Read more here.
Oxford University’s study finds an app designed to help parents improve their parenting skills is showing signs of success. The study recruited 144 families with children aged between two and six from disadvantaged communities in Bournemouth, and found that using the app resulted in an improvement in children’s school readiness. The app offers a variety of practical tips and guidance in bringing up children as well as activities and games that parents and children can do together. After eighteen weeks of using the app, parents reported that their children showed more autonomy in decision-making, displayed perseverance, especially in conducting hard tasks, and there was a general improvement in children’s overall behaviour. The study also found that at £35 per child, the intervention was cost-effective and the improvements were reported to be ‘statistically significant’. The study was, in part, funded by the Sutton Trust, whose founder, Sir Peter Lampl, stated that such interventions can help to increase social mobility and narrow the gap between the rich and poor.
A charity, Show Racism the Red Card, led an anti-racism day at Sacred Heart primary school in Hartlepool with 5-6 year olds. Justine King, an education worker with the charity, explained that Hartlepool has one of the lowest proportions of ethnic minorities in the UK. Following the Brexit vote, the attitudes of people in the region have shifted, leading to an increase in the expression of racist views. Hartlepool is just an example and since the referendum, there has been a national increase in hate crimes. According to figures from the Department for Education, changes in the UK’s ethnic make-up are having a wide-ranging impact on education. In a millennium cohort study with 2,000 ethnic minority participants, it was found that children who experienced racism performed less well than their peers in non-verbal reasoning and spatial tests.
Research from the USA has found that the impact of experiencing bullying as a child can have effects reaching into early adulthood. The study of 480 undergraduate students measured exposure to various traumatic experiences, such as bullying, cyberbullying, robbery, sexual assault and violence from birth to 17. Experiencing bullying as a child was the strongest predictor in the study of students reporting symptoms of PTSD. Females who had experienced bullying reported significantly higher levels of depression, anxiety and PTSD than males. There was found to be a correlation between experiencing inter-personal trauma as a child or young adult and the risk of victimisation as an adult. Educational psychologist Dorothy Espelage, who led the study at the University of Illinois, said “Bullying victimization significantly predicted students’ current levels of depression and anxiety — over and above other childhood victimization experiences.”
A recent study published in the International Journal of Diabetes has revealed that teenagers burn 25% less energy when they are resting compared to the energy burnt at age 10 while resting. Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School found that the number of calories burnt by teenagers at resting point falls dramatically during puberty. At around age 16, calories burnt at rest began to rise again. During puberty, researchers observed a noticeable reduction in exercise among teenagers, particularly girls, which they believed could add to weight gain. They consider their findings to be an explanation of why teenagers gain weight during puberty and believe that the results of the study could help inform the creation of targeted strategies. Vice-president of the Faculty of Public Health, Professor Simon Capewell, commented on young people’s use of personal electronic devices, stating that the bombardment of food marketing to adolescents does not help the situation.
A recent UK study has revealed that despite achieving better grades than boys, girls are less happy than boys on average when at school. 1,500 students from 29 primary and secondary schools in Wales were asked about their experiences at school for the past three years, with the aim to discover differences between how boys and girls view their time at school. Although girls perceived school and staff in a positive light, 25% said that when they were at school they felt worried. Another 24% said they felt they did not belong, compared to 16.5% and 8.8% of boys respectively. As students progressed through their education, these results either remained constant, or became more negative. Both body image and social media activity have been seen to play a large role in the everyday pressures girls face.
Research from Australia has looked at the outcomes of pregnancies amongst girls who take part in virtual infant parenting (VIP). In many countries across the world, the use of automated dolls is used to teach young teens about life with an infant. The aim is to discourage teenage pregnancy, however the research shows that VIP programmes may actually have the opposite effect. The Australian study was the first randomized control trial of the effectiveness of dolls to prevent teenage pregnancy. Over a three year period, 1,267 who took part and 1,567 girls who did not take part in VIP were part of the study. By the age of 20, 8% of those who had taken part and 4% of those who had not were mothers, while 9% of the VIP and 6% of the control group had had at least one abortion. The researchers did not analyse the reasoning behind this failure of the project, however the study author Sally Brinkman said that ‘Anecdotally, a lot of the students really enjoyed the program… There was a lot of positivity around the program, so it didn’t really work in putting the kids off.’
With A-level results day this week in the UK, it’s becoming clear that there is a growing trend in the gap between girls’ and boys’ results and university places. Women outnumber men in going to university. The BBC points out that, as university places are often decided by A-level results, girls out-performing boys at those exams means that the imbalance is not a surprise, especially considering that 55% of pupils sitting A-level exams are female. This year the gap between applications from boys and girls was the widest in recent years in England, Scotland and Wales. The current figures show that in England, women are 36% more likely to apply to university then men. The attainment gap between girls and boys can already be seen at GSCE level and research from Bristol University has found that boys are almost twice as likely to be behind when they first start school. The disparity between men and women in higher education is around 281,000; interestingly, with the exclusion of subjects linked to education and medicine, this number drops to 34,000. It’s also important to note that while women are more likely to go to university, men are still more likely to gain ‘entry to the toughest universities and toughest courses.’
The government has pledged to open 500 free schools before 2020. The Church of England is reportedly aiming to open a quarter of these. This proportion of new schools would maintain the current ratio of one in four free schools in England that are C of E. Over a million children in the UK attend the 4,417 primary and 209 C of E secondary schools in England. Stephen Conway, the Bishop of Ely is quoted as saying that “As the [education] system has fragmented from a dual system to one of multiple providers, we find ourselves as the largest single provider of schools and academies across the country.” Free schools are allowed to be selective based on faith for 50% of their places if they are oversubscribed.