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Tough Choices: The real reasons A-level students are steering clear of science and maths

A report by ATKearney and the Your Life campaign examines the reasons for the cultural and educational problem in the UK surrounding the low take-up of STEM subjects and especially maths and physics at A-level. 

The report finds that:

  • Young people have an alarming lack of knowledge of the many career paths dependent on STEM qualifications, despite employers calling for these skills
  • As they progress through school, students lose interest because maths and physics lessons become less practical, reinforcing their perception that there is limited career relevance
  • Many teachers and parents push students to prioritise good grades and as a result steer them away from STEM; students say they listen to this guidance
  • Students selecting their subjects for A level (or equivalent) hear a clear message from teachers, parents and peers: STEM study is only for the ‘ultra-bright’; school policies on streaming often reinforce this
  • Evidence does suggest that historically it has been more difficult to earn high grades in STEM subjects than in nominally vocational subjects and that it remains harder to achieve high marks in physics than in media studies.

The report also concludes that these problems have more impact on girls who are put off studying STEM because certain science-related careers seem to have a masculine image.

Download the report here

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