England’s GCSE gender gap lasts 30 YEARS


Schoolboys have had worse exam results than girls for 30 years, it emerged today as poorer pupils fell further behind their richer classmates in GCSE achievement.

Girls are now 14 per cent more likely than boys to pass their exams in English and maths, with 64 per cent of girls doing so compared to 56 per cent of boys.

Meanwhile disadvantaged pupils got an attainment score of 36.7 in their GCSEs, compared to 50.3 for advantaged students – a gap of 13.6. In 2018, the gap was 13.4.

The data also shows children whose first language is not English are beating native-speaking pupils. In addition, the figures revealed:

Campaigners told BBC News that current trends suggest the male-female gap will be bigger than the rich-poor divide by 2030 in terms of university entrance.

The gap between the percentage of girls’ and boys’ GCSE passes more than doubled between 1989 and 1999, from four to nine percentage points.

This change was often put down to the launch of GCSEs, with little variation over the next 20 years before it dipped in 2009 then returned to nine over the next decade.

Former Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: ‘On current trends, a girl born today will be 75 per cent more likely to go to university than her male peers.’

She explained how the female-male gap will be larger than the rich-poor gap by this point, adding that the data revealed a ‘massive policy blind spot’.

Dan Bell, chief executive of the Men and Boys Coalition, which campaigns on male equality issues, added: ‘For decades, this problem has existed.

‘But successive governments and the wider education establishment has buried its head in the sand and, in effect, ignored it.’

Data published by the Department for Education (DfE) also shows poorer pupils are falling further behind their richer classmates in GCSE achievement.

Gaps in the proportions of rich and poor students being entered for, and achieving, the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) plus attainment over eight GCSEs have widened. 

The EBacc is a measure that recognises pupils who take a suite of core academic GCSEs – English, maths, science, history or geography and a foreign language.

The latest data shows that just over a quarter (27.5 per cent) of disadvantaged teenagers were entered for all of the EBacc subjects last year.

This is compared to 44.5 per cent of all other students – a gap of 17 percentage points. In 2018, the gap was 16.4 percentage points (26.4 versus 42.8 per cent).

In addition, the EBacc average points score for pupils from poorer homes was 3.08, compared to 4.43 for those from wealthier backgrounds – a difference of 1.35. 

In 2018, the difference was 1.33. The DfE’s figures also look at attainment in eight GCSE-level qualifications.

These show that disadvantaged pupils had an Attainment 8 score of 36.7, compared to 50.3 for advantaged students – a gap of 13.6. In 2018, the gap was 13.4.

Pupils are considered to be disadvantaged if they have been eligible for free school meals between Year 6 (the final year of primary school) and Year 11, if they have been looked after, or if they are recorded as being adopted from care.

In 2019, around one in four (26.5 per cent) pupils in state schools in England at the end of Year 11 were considered disadvantaged.

The DfE also publishes a ‘disadvantaged gap index’ which looks at the relative attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

A gap of zero would indicate that disadvantaged youngsters were performing as well as those from more advantaged backgrounds. In 2019, the gap was 3.70, compared to 3.68 in 2018.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: ‘The attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers remains stable and is down by around 9 per cent since 2011 – but we recognise there is more to do.

‘Multi-academy trusts make a significant contribution in terms of helping disadvantaged pupils with progress rates higher than in other types of school. 

‘This is encouraging and shows the benefits that can be achieved under the leadership of a strong trust.’ 


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