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Jobs for the girls

Girls are more likely than boys to expect to get high-skilled, high-paid jobs when they leave school, according to a survey of 15-year-olds.

Their exam performance is better than boys' throughout the developed world and is now translating into their career aspirations, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Young women are now more likely to obtain first-class degrees in most countries as well as out-performing boys at school.

But traditional gender roles persist, with boys far more likely to expect a career in maths, physics or engineering and girls more likely to look towards the life sciences. "Schools are not doing well in challenging these gender assumptions," said Dr Andreas Schleicher, OECD head of indicators and analysis.

Teachers and heads said the figures showed that the gender gap in England is an international phenomenon.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: "It is important to celebrate the success of girls and not to engage in a dialogue of despair about the performance of boys.

"Even though girls may be doing better educationally, women are still not achieving economic equality with their male counterparts out in the workplace."

The OECD's Education at a glance report also warns that schools face a growing problem of teacher shortages. A survey of secondaries in 14 countries showed an average of 12 per cent of posts vacant. One in seven full-time teachers failed to comply fully with official training and qualification requirements.

Teachers' pay in the UK grew more slowly than the economy overall but salaries remain close to the OECD average.

Despite the Government's policy of reducing class sizes for five to seven-year-olds to 30 or fewer, infants in the UK still face larger classes than their counterparts in other countries.

The UK average class size of 26 for children's first year of schooling compares to an OECD average of 22. Only Japan, Korea and Turkey have larger primary classes.

Teachers in England work more hours per year than their counterparts abroad.

The 1,265 hours required is higher than Spain, Scotland (1,075 hours) and Ireland but below the United States.

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