Girls extend lead in GCSEs

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Boys are falling further behind girls at GCSE, in another record-breaking year of results, with leading head teachers blaming their ‘lack of maturity’.

This year more than a quarter of girls’ exams, 26.5 per cent, were awarded an A or A* compared with less than a fifth, 19.8 per cent, of boys’.

It is a gap of 6.7 percentage points – the widest it has been since the A* grade was introduced in 1994, when it sat at just 3 per cent.

The GCSE results also show an increase, for the 23rd year running, in the proportion of entries awarded between an A* and a C grade, at just under 70%.

In addition, girls are leading the surge in the number of teens taking – and excelling in – tough science subjects, traditionally an area where boys have flourished.

The trend is surprising, given that A-level figures showed boys closing the gap in top grades.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘At A-level it is different as boys are good at focusing on a means to an end and therefore fight to get good grades to get into university. But at GCSE some of the maturity that girls have is missing and they can’t see an obvious reason to aim for the A*.’

The GCSE gender gap also widened this year over A*-C grades.

Just 66 per cent of boys’ exams gained at least a C compared with 73.5 per cent of girls’, a difference of 7.5 percentage points. Last year the gap was 7.2 per cent.

In addition, girls are taking up sciences at a faster rate than boys and they are scoring more elite grades.

This year an incredible 21.7 per cent of girls taking physics got an A* compared with 20.8 per cent of boys.

Girls are also outperforming boys in other traditionally male subjects such as engineering and statistics.

Andrew Hall, director general of AQA exam board, said: "Examiners are scratching their heads over the acceleration in the trend of two decades - especially as boys are catching up with girls at A-level. There will be something there about boys and girls maturing at different rates."

This year, the proportion of students studying science as separate subjects rose, with numbers taking Physics up by 16.4% to 140,183 entries, Chemistry by 16.2% to 141,724 entries, and Biology by 14.2% to 147,904 entries. However, numbers taking modern foreign languages were down 10% on a year ago.

Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director, said: “It’s good to see the proportion achieving a C or above in Maths and English continuing to rise. Being able to show you have good ability in reading, writing and maths is more important than ever and opens the door to work or further study.

“However, too many students are still failing to pass Maths GCSE.

“With the highest number of young people for five years not in education, employment or training, we cannot afford for young people to miss out on basic Maths skills. The Government should ensure that students getting a grade D or below in Maths GCSE retake and achieve this essential standard.”

School Leadership Today
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