Record A-level pass rate as top-grade girls finally overtake boys

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A-level results, which are published for 250,000 candidates today, show a record pass rate for the 18th year running, but boys have failed to win the lion's share of A grades for the first time.

A-level results, which are published for 250,000 candidates today, show a record pass rate for the 18th year running, but boys have failed to win the lion's share of A grades for the first time.

Figures from the exam boards reveal that overall the pass rate was up by 0.6 of a percentage point, to 89.1, and the percentage of A grades by 0.3. Girls notched up 18.1 per cent for A grades. The figure for boys remained unchanged at 17.5 per cent.

Experts said the figures were the latest sign of girls matching and outpacing boys as a result of society's changing expectations for women. Headteachers talked of the effect of "a laddish culture" on boys' academic achievement.

The pass-rate for girls has been higher than for boys for several years.

Professor Alan Smithers, of Liverpool University, said: "Both boys and girls have been improving but girls have been improving faster. In an earlier age women were expected to take on supportive roles. Now the message is that they should go on to university and have careers."

Jerry Bartlett, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "We are concerned about what may be the under-performance of boys, and we would support a rigorous investigation into the possible causes."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "A laddish culture that despises academic achievement and is tolerated by far too many parents must be changed."

* Tony Higgins, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, said delays in sending out accurate Scottish exam results could cause up to 3,000 students to miss chances in the clearing system, which matches university applicants to surplus places.

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