MORE must be done to encourage girls to study science and maths subjects, campaigners have said, after figures revealed there were no young women studying physics at four out of ten schools in Wales.

The figures uncovered by Plaid Cymru show some Gwent schools have as many as six times more boys studying the subject than girls.

In the 2016-2017 academic year there were just six girls studying A-level physics in each of Newport, Monmouthshire and Caerphilly, and just five in Torfaen. There were six times as many boys studying the subject in Newport, almost five times more in Monmouth, three times as many in Caerphilly and almost three times as many in Torfaen.

This represents a drop in the number of girls studying the subject of around one third since 2012 - although the actual number is relatively small.

Overall there were more than four times as many boys studying A-level physics as girls in Wales last year.

Plaid Cymru’s shadow education secretary Llyr Gruffydd said the figures show the need to do more to encourage girls to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects - an area typically dominated by men.

“There’s a fundamental problem here when you consider that, at GCSE, the numbers of boys and girls taking physics is almost equal – 3,001 boys and 2,883 girls in 2017," he said.

"However the numbers who are taking physics at AS-level falls to just 22 per cent and at A-level it’s just 18 per cent. That is a serious and troubling drop-off that must be addressed by the education secretary.

“The absence of any girls taking physics A-level in four out of every 10 schools in Wales suggests that this government is not doing enough to nurture interest in the subject.

"If we’re serious about increasing take-up of STEM subjects, we must make sure this is reaching out to both boys and girls or we could miss out on a whole generation of women physicists and scientists.”

Helen Antoniazzi of Welsh gender equality charity Chwarae Teg said: "It’s very worrying that the numbers for girls doing physics at A-level are so low.

"STEM careers tend to be the better paid and it is important that women have the same opportunities to enter that market as men.

"The pipeline for women in STEM careers begins in our schools, if we fail to engage more women at this stage we are never going to see a balanced workforce in STEM careers and we are unlikely to close the gender pay gap.

"Currently only 11 per cent of the overall engineering workforce is female, and as low as 6.6 per cent in aerospace engineering, eight per cent in energy and renewables and 10 per cent in rail, civil and structural engineering.

"There are a variety of actions that can be taken to encourage more young women into STEM.

"Ongoing unconscious bias and gender awareness training for teachers, along with action to combat stereotypes, is a crucial tool."

The figures also showed there were no students at all studying physics at A-level in Blaenau Gwent last year.