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Girls outperforming boys at GCSE 'because they do better at coursework'

Published 20/08/2015

Pupils taking a GCSE English exam at Colchester County High School for Girls
Pupils taking a GCSE English exam at Colchester County High School for Girls

Girls are outperforming boys at GCSEs because they are better at coursework, while their male counterparts are more prone to doing things at the last minute, it has been claimed.

The publication of exam results for students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, shows that the gender gap is narrowing, but that girls are still doing better than boys.

The national figures, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) also show that 73.1% of girls were awarded at least a C grade, compared to 64.7% of boys.

This is a gap of 8.4 percentage points, compared to 8.8 percentage points last summer.

However, the A*-C pass rate for girls has not changed since last year, while the percentage of boys gaining at least a C rose by 0.4 % from last year's 64.3%.

Girls also got more A*s, with 8% of them achieving the top mark, compared to just 5.2% of boys.

This year is the first since 2010 that the girls' lead over boys in A*-C grades has dropped.

Commenting on the narrowing gender gap, Brian Lightman, General Secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said that girls do better at coursework as boys tend to rush it.

He added: "I think schools will be working very hard on this for a very long time. And of the things that schools have become very good at is monitoring the progress of every single student.

"The boys' underachievement has often been because boys tend to do things at the last minute, so you need to be sitting there and keeping the pressure up."

Asked what could have led to boys doing better, he continued: "They (teachers) have worked very hard, they have used the data very effectively. They've used strategies - there has been a lot of research carried out into effective strategies that motivate boys and that help them to achieve better.

"And you can call them interventions or support, or various types of things, and that has enabled boys to achieve better.

"The other aspect of it is the coursework element because girls did better at coursework.

"Coursework was much more suited to the way girls work, they will spend more time at home working on coursework than boys, who tend to rush it more - these are huge generalisations."

Cherry Ridgway, curriculum and assessment specialist at ASCL, said: "There is some compelling research which shows that in general girls perform better on controlled assessment and coursework, and boys perform better in their exams.

"So moving forward, that may have implications for the future."

As well as the continuing trend of girls doing better than boys, the subjects traditionally taken by each have remained more or less the same.

Boys made up 94.7% of those taking construction, followed by 92.6% taking engineering and 84.2% sitting engineering exams.

While girls accounted for 93.4% of those taking health and social care, 88.1% of those home economics and 83.6% of those taking performing/expressive arts.

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