Boys fight back in GCSE exams

Click to follow

Boys fought back against girls in this year's GCSE exams and narrowed the gender gap in results published today.

Boys fought back against girls in this year's GCSE exams and narrowed the gender gap in results published today.

Males still lag 8.8 percentage points behind girls overall, but today's figures show the gap has narrowed by 0.2 percentage points after a government drive to convince boys that learning is "cool". Girls failed to improve the proportion of entries graded A* to C - stalling at 62.4 per cent. But boys improved slightly, with 53.6 per cent achieving a C grade or above, compared with 53.4 per cent last year.

Girls continue to forge ahead at the top of the ability range. Six per cent of girls' GCSE entries were awarded the coveted A* grade, compared with just 4.1 per cent of boys'. Overall, females still outperform males in almost every subject. Boys outscored girls in physics, the top two grades in maths and chemistry at grade C.

Pam Sammons, professor of education at London University's Institute of Education, said boys' relative improvement was unsurprising given the extra focus schools and parents had put on raising their grades. "Boys are generally more laid back, but they are being encouraged to be more consistent and pay more attention to the presentation of coursework," she said.

Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, said the Government had encouraged schools to adopt boy-friendly strategies. "We have a clear route to tackling the gap in achievement between boys and girls," he said. "We know that boys don't work well if left alone, but do respond well to strong discipline, individual attention, clear goals and high expectations."

Meanwhile, today's results show a religious revival is under way in Britain's secondary school classrooms, with thousands more pupils opting to take the religious education (RE) GCSE exam.

RE has now ousted German from the top 10 of the most popular subjects to study at GCSE - thanks to a rise of 7.9 per cent in the number of students taking the exam. That took the overall number of entrants to slightly more than 132,000.

The massive increase in entries has been prompted by changes in the way the subject is taught, which makes religious education one of the few subjects in the national curriculum where students can debate moral and social issues. Schools now tackle it as a study of comparative religions, rather than a study of the Bible alone.

They also believe that because it is a compulsory subject in the national curriculum up to the age of 16 - unlike modern foreign languages, where the percentage of candidates getting top-grade passes nosedived this year - pupils consider it to be one of the more important subjects.

The upsurge of interest began with the introduction of the short-course GCSE, which is worth half the exam. This year, the numbers taking RE as a short course rose from 201,854 to 223,885.

Meanwhile, the popularity of vocational exams has rocketed this summer, with the number of entries in some courses jumping by nearly 100 per cent. The biggest rise was in GNVQ Intermediate Part One courses - which are worth two good GCSE passes - where entries almost doubled, from 38,299 to 75,663. Schools have been accused of pushing pupils into these courses because they are worth double the points in exam league tables.