Call for probe into GCSE gender gap
The Government must investigate whether a "fundamental problem" in how boys are taught has led to a widening gender gap in GCSE achievements, an education expert has reportedly said.
This summer's results revealed 24.8% of girls' were awarded at least an A grade, compared with 17.6% of boys.This gap of 7.2 percentage points is believed to be the biggest since GCSEs were introduced in the 1980s.
Prof Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, told The Daily Telegraph that successive governments have failed to get to grips with the continuing lack of progress by boys in comparison to girls.
"The difference is so great, particularly in English, that we really need to look carefully at whether there's a more fundamental problem here with the way we teach boys," Prof Smithers said. "The Government ought to commission a thorough study into just why boys' performance is so poor. That would involve going into classrooms, talking to teachers, talking to pupils and finding out which part of the assessment process really holds boys back."
AQA exam board chief executive Andrew Hall told the Daily Mail that he expected the gender gap to narrow over time. The comments where made as it emerged there has been an overall dip in results, with a record fall in the number of pupils scoring A*-C grades and a drop in the the A*-G pass rate.
The fall in performance comes amid major upheaval in the exams system with more pupils entering maths GCSE early or multiple times, changes to science GCSEs and an increase in pupils taking international GCSEs (IGCSEs) in certain subjects contributing to the falls in performance.
Exam board chiefs warned that sitting exams more than once - especially in maths - was doing "real damage" to education in this country.
Mr Hall said there was "limited educational benefit" to pupils sitting GCSEs in the same subject many times, and suggested that "perverse incentives" were encouraging schools towards multiple and early entry to ensure that pupils secured crucial C grades or higher in maths and English.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said schools should not be entering children for exams early or multiple times as it is "not good for pupils". "It is clearly a worry that some schools might be putting pupils for early entry so they can 'bank' a C rather than studying the subject for another year and perhaps getting a better grade.Scrapping modules and moving to end-of-course exams will help stop schools 'gaming' the system in this way."
She added that the Government also plans to overhaul school performance tables.