Barnaby Lenon: Too many girls studying ‘soft option’ psychology

The Mail is reporting that an education leader has called for schools to persuade girls to ditch studying psychology and switch to ‘hard sciences’.

Barnaby Lenon, who chairs the Independent Schools Council and was headmaster at Harrow, said too many girls were taking the subject when they were capable of getting good grades in physics and chemistry instead.

This is making it more difficult for them to gain places on sought-after university courses such as medicine and engineering, he said.

Mr Lenon said that private schools had helped to increase the number of girls studying sciences but this was not mirrored in the state sector…

‘Teachers should be saying, you’d be good at physics and it leads to more university degree options than psychology,’ he told the Times Educational Supplement. 

‘It’s in the interest of the country as a whole that more pupils should be doing hard sciences and that there should not be a gender imbalance within individual subjects…’

But Professor Catriona Morrison of the British Psychological Society said: ‘Discussions that continually polarise science subjects as gender-specific are unhelpful and reinforce stereotypes.

‘Students chose different subjects for a range of reasons. It is complex and multifaceted.’

More at: Too many girls studying ‘soft option’ psychology: Schools should encourage female students to focus on ‘hard sciences’ so they get top places at university, education leader says


Breaking this down a bit, is Barnaby Lenon right to suggest that psychology is a subject valued less highly than other science A-levels by leading universities/courses?

If this is the case, is it fair? Is it actually a less challenging subject or is there an image or perception problem?

And, overall, do you agree that state schools are doing girls a disservice by failing to encourage them to take other sciences instead of doing psychology?

Please let us know your reactions in the comments or via Twitter…


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  1. StephField

    SchoolsImprove I did Psychology and I can assure you it is not a soft option! Particularly when you cover the module about bio psychology

  2. The_little_pea

    SchoolsImprove soft option???? Def a perception problem. With mental health issues escalating we should not be discouraging psychology.

  3. The_little_pea

    StephField SchoolsImprove I feel for all psychology students who work so hard on this imp subject to then hear it implied as soft option

  4. lennyvalentino

    SchoolsImprove Perhaps it is the attraction of studying something new? (If not available at GCSE). Complements other subjects well too.

  5. carol Elizabeth

    I did my degree in Psychology and it is not a soft option. However jobs as pure psychologists are few and mostly require considerable lengths of extra study and places are highly competitive. Most people only get on these courses after substantial relevant work experience. Psychology is helpful in lots of other careers but we should still encourage our bright students to consider chemistry and or physics along side to give them more choice and potentially better career options. The discussions about career options must be had alongside subject choices, but it mostly isn’t in my opinion.

  6. brighton118

    SchoolsImprove – If pupils are inspired they will choose a subject. Disagree personally with hard/soft idea in relation to subjects #oldhat

Let us know what you think...