Should girls do ICT?

Of course the answer is yes; the real question is why don’t more girls do ICT?

Back in Jan 2010, after analysing figures at my school which proved that, proportionally, significantly more boys than girls chose GCSE ICT, I decided to do something about it.  I did quite a bit of research and also decided to contact local businesses to see if they had high flying females working in their IT departments who wouldn’t mind talking to our girls.  My thought behind this was that the girls would see that being female certainly wasn’t a barrier to success!   I arranged the first presentation shortly before the GCSE options choice in Jan 2010.  We were lucky enough to have coverage by the TES and also our local Newspaper.  You can see by reading the articles below that this contact with women in local business was a success in terms of how it affected our girls.  Indeed, the figures for the following year were also high, due to word of mouth recommendations.

Please read the articles and then continue on to see how this year’s presentation might not have been quite so successful!!!

TES

WALES – GIRLS SWITCHED ON TO ICT

An independent secondary school has dramatically boosted the number of girls studying information communications technology at GCSE – up by almost 15 times in just a year.

Staff at Cardiff’s Cathedral School were concerned that girls were not interested in ICT and regarded it as a “boys’ subject”. Last year, just 6 per cent of girls studied the subject at GCSE, an all-time low, but the proportion has now soared to 89 per cent.

Nic Patterson, the school’s head of ICT, said he was so alarmed by the decline last year that he turned to local businesses for help and advice.

He said: “We needed to show pupils how important ICT is to their future working lives. We wanted to dispel the myth that it is a difficult subject and show how vital computer skills are for popular jobs.”

Local technology and public relations companies organised seminars with pupils about the importance of the subject and the school held a careers fair highlighting the potential job opportunities arising for those with skills in the subject.

“It worked a treat and the change was immediate,” Mr Patterson said.

WESTERN MAIL – BUSINESSES CALLED IN TO OVERCOME ICT GENDER STEREOTYPE

A SCHOOL overcame a gender stereotype and reversed a decline in girls studying ICT thanks to a partnership with local businesses.

Llandaff Cathedral School in Cardiff has seen its percentage of female GCSE technology students soar from 6% to 89% in just a year.

Staff had seen falling numbers of pupils studying the subject, with participants dropping to an all-time low.

Head of ICT Nic Patterson was so alarmed by the trend, he turned to local businesses for advice. Shortly after, the Cathedral School linked up with Cardiff-based technology specialist Circle IT and Warwick Emanuel PR and Film.

 “We needed to show pupils how important ICT is to their future working lives,” said Mr Patterson. “We wanted to dispel the myth that it is a difficult subject and show how vital computer skills are for popular jobs – such as in the media and PR.

“Circle IT and Warwick Emanuel put together an informal programme where they chatted to pupils in groups and on a one-to-one basis. There was no pressure whatsoever, so the female pupils could chat about the skills they’d need in future careers and why they now have an excellent opportunity to develop them.”

He added: “It worked a treat and the change was immediate. The number of girls applying to study the subject leapt from one to 16 and the total intake for ICT in the 2010-11 academic year has more than doubled to 46 out of 60 pupils.”

Nicola Roberts, of Warwick Emanuel, said: “Studying ICT is such a beneficial subject, no matter what career pupils decide to pursue. It’s essential in my job, and what’s more it’s fun to know how to get the best out of technology and social media.

“There’s too often a misconception that ICT is just for boys and geeks and that it’s only really beneficial to pupils looking to be ICT professionals. Visiting the school and giving girls the realities of ICT seemed to be an eye-opener for many.”

Ceri Ford, from Circle IT in Cardiff, added: “ICT is, of course, what we are all about, but pupils hadn’t realised just how many careers ICT was relevant to. It’s vital that they gain an understanding from an early age – this will help them throughout their lives.”

In addition to the informal seminars from the two businesses, the school held a careers fair and provided the opportunity to study a short course in the subject.

Year Eight pupils Sophie Bird and Emily Morris are both ITC-savvy and said: “With technology growing and changing so rapidly and with more and more careers highlighting how important ICT skills are, we have both chosen ICT as one of our GCSE option subjects, even though we have a few more years to go before looking for a job.

“We were really inspired by the presentation from Circle IT and Warwick Emanuel and it made us realise that ICT isn’t just for boys. We are really looking forward to starting the new course in September. It will give us a good balance between academic and more practical subjects and hopefully equip us with some very useful skills for the future.”

With these successes in mind, I decided that I should again invite a woman in to talk to our girls so that the unfair stereotype was smashed some more!  This time I made contact with a University’s School of Computer Science and Informatics.  After several polite and detailed emails back and forth, content for the presentation was agreed and a date set.  Today was that day and I am concerned that more harm than good has been done.  Whilst the content of the presentation was interesting to me the delivery was very poor, failing to inspire.  The use of PowerPoint was disappointing when there are so many better tools.  An inability to embed a YouTube video and a hesitancy when opening files all failed to enthral the assembled group of 50 girls.  She also failed to realise the need to access our wireless network for internet access, nor did she request speakers for her video.  Her voice was quiet and drifted off during mid sentence.

I am concerned that excellent content has been killed by poor delivery (ring any bells?).

For more resources about encouraging girls to use ICT please look here.

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