GCSE attainment gap between boys and girls narrows

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New figures show  the GCSE attainment gap between boys and girls, and between those on free school meals (FSM) and their peers has narrowed over the last 12 months.

The provisional 2009 national GCSE figures, published in October, showed 50.9% of pupils got five or more A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths – up from 47.8% last year.

The provisional statistics giving GCSE attainment of five A* to C GCSEs, including English and maths, by pupil characteristics show:

Gender: the pace of improvement has quickened with the gap narrowing by 0.9 percentage points since last year to 54.5 % for girls and 47.3% of boys - after closing by just 0.2 ppts between 2006 and 2008;

Ethnicity: overall attainment has risen for all ethnic groups since last year – with strong rises in attainment for black (4.4ppts) and mixed groups (4.6 ppts) since last year compared with overall national rise of 3.1 ppts. Attainment gaps have narrowed for most under-performing ethnic groups.

Free School Meals: theproportion of FSM pupils gaining expected level rose overall by 3.4 ppts – a faster improvement than the 3.1 ppt rise for non-FSM pupils. The gap between FSM and non-FSM pupils continues to narrow slowly – but remains a top priority for ministers.

English as an Additional Language: 47.9% of pupils with English as an additional language are reaching the GCSE benchmark – but the gap between pupils with native speakers has held steady since last year at 3.3 ppts;

Special Educational Needs: 16.8% of all pupils with SEN (both with and without statements of SEN) passed the basic benchmark – up 3.8 ppts compared to a 3.7 ppt rise for non-SEN pupils – with significant improvement in the performance of autistic pupils this year.

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said: “This year has seen huge sustained rises in GCSE results with more children across the country achieving good results, regardless of ethnicity, class or SEN.

“The largest overall improvements over the last 12 years have been in disadvantaged areas – thanks to Academies and City Challenge programmes.

“But while the figures show that the attainment gap between FSM pupils and their peers continues to close, we are not complacent. All schools have the desire and the tools to close this gap by providing each child with the education they particularly need – but it takes time and energy from both parents and teachers to make changes and the evidence focused long term support to get sustained improvement over time.

The Association of School and College Leaders said the figures reinforce the argument for changing the way funding is distributed so that it benefits the students who need it most.

ASCL General Secretary Dr John Dunford said: “All the critical gaps – gender, ethnicity, disadvantage – are narrowing in response to the action taken by government, schools and colleges in recent years.

“All political parties are rightly looking at the distribution of funding for disadvantage. Their aim should be to use information on disadvantage at pupil level, not local authority level, and target additional funding wherever disadvantaged children are at school or college.”

“At present disadvantaged pupils in rural areas, which tend to be less well funded, receive less support as the schools cannot afford to employ the extra staff required. We need a national funding entitlement for all young people, wherever they go to school or college, with additional funding to reflect their needs.”

Shadow Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "It is a tragedy that the gap between our poorest white boys and our wealthiest white boys continues... It is outrageous that the government continues to let down our most deprived children."

The Liberal Democrats' schools spokesman David Laws, said: "It is shameful that the most disadvantaged children are only half as likely to get five good GCSEs than those who are better off."
The research report ‘Disengagement from Education among 14-16 year olds’ highlights four main types of engaged or disengaged young people:

  • Engaged – young people who aspire to continue with their education in the long term, have a positive attitude to school and rarely play truant.
  • Disengaged from school not education – young people who aspire to continue with education in the long term, however they often have more negative attitudes toward school and are more likely to play truant.
  • Engaged with school not higher education – young people who are reasonably likely to aspire to continue with fulltime education in year 12, but not higher education.
  • Disengaged pupils – Young people who are far less likely to aspire to continue with full time education. They also have negative attitudes to school and are much more likely to play truant.

The report finds that schools that engage with parents about a pupil’s progress, offer the option of extra curricular activities, give support and guidance for pupils about the importance of education in relation to career development, and offer of a broad range of academic and vocational options can have a major effect on young people’s engagement with school and their aspiration to continue into further education or employment.

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