Heads claim end of 'lad culture' helped results

Girls remain ahead in all subjects except physics and biology, while more pupils are fast-tracked through exams
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The Independent Online

Headteachers have cautiously welcomed the beginning of the end of the "laddish culture" in schools which has led to thousands of boys being reluctant to perform well in examinations.

Headteachers have cautiously welcomed the beginning of the end of the "laddish culture" in schools which has led to thousands of boys being reluctant to perform well in examinations.

This year's GCSE results, which show the gap in performance in A* to C grade passes between girls and boys narrowing for the first time – as exclusively revealed in The Independent yesterday – are being seen as a sign that efforts to tackle the under-achievement of boys are beginning to pay off.

Overall, the results show the pass rate has remained the same for the past two years but that the number of A* to C grade passes has increased – by 0.5 per cent to 57.1 per cent. The overall gap between the performance of girls and boys has fallen from 9.2 percentage points to 8.9 percentage points.

However, the results show that the gender gap is still significant in several subjects, with 71.3 per cent of girls obtaining at least a C grade in English literature compared with 56.3 per cent of boys. The biggest gap was in art, where girls were 20.1 percentage points ahead.

Boys are ahead only in physics (0.8 percentage points at grades A* to C) and biology (0.4 percentage points).

Paul Sokoloff, convener of the Joint Council for General Qualifications, the umbrella group covering all the exam boards, said: "Any sign that boys are doing better is a good sign because we are getting a feeling now that boys are completely useless and I wish to refute that utterly and completely.

"It is quite unreasonable to expect a big turnaroud in one year, the problems are a lot deeper than just one exam. Therefore, we would expect over perhaps three, four or five more years to see that trend reversed. This is a small but encouraging sign."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "There is a long way to go but if more boys begin to understand that it is 'cool to learn', we may be witnessing the first signs that the laddish culture, which has pervaded for far too long, is on the wane."

Mr Hart also expressed concern over the "stubborn tail of under-achievement" shown in the results. More than two million scripts were awarded only a D to G grade, often overlooked by employers when assessing candidates for a job.

Leaders of the Confederation of British Industry described the results as "disappointing" since more than four out of ten candidates were still failing to get a top grade A* to C grade pass in important subjects such as maths, English and science.

The trend towards an increased take-up of more modern subjects is gathering pace with a 14.2 per cent increase in the number of youngsters studying information technology. But the numbers taking English literature also rose at a faster rate than the age cohort. Other subjects with a bigger than average rise include design and technology, double science and physical education. The numbers taking French and German rose by less than the rise in the age cohort.

Evidence is also emerging of a large number of students dropping modern languages altogether. The numbers taking the entry level course in languages – designed for those not thought up to the required standard for GCSE – dropped by 15.8 per cent. These figures are likely to include the first glimpse of the options being taken by pupils who are exempted from the national curriculum.

* Parents are having to subsidise their children's GCSE studies by buying their textbooks, according to a survey by the Publishers Association. More than 50 per cent of the students who responded said their parents had to buy maths and science books out of their own pocket. The findings by Keele University researchers suggest book provision in some areas has worsened during the past four years despite extra government funding specially earmarked for book purchasing.

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