More than 6 per cent of boys leave school with no GCSEs and boys are five times more likely to be excluded from school.
When Labour came to power in 1997, ministers cited the gender gap as one of the biggest issues facing schools. A co-ordinated approach which required councils to tackle boys' underachievement was unveiled and teachers were offered curriculum advice. However, girls now outperform boys at all four key stages in English.
The Department for Education and Skills says that the differences - particularly in reading and the quality of writing - emerge during key stage 1 and continue throughout their schooldays.
Boys' underachievement is an international problem. Research shows that girls hold on to their advantage in reading and writing throughout school in the United States, Australia, Scotland and Holland.