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On the map - Key stages 3 and 4 - Boys still lag behind the girls

Whether it is in comprehensive, selective or the remaining three-tier systems, across England more girls made the expected progress between key stages 3 and 4 than boys did in 2009, continuing the trend of recent years.

Regionally, the difference between the sexes ranged from 9.2 per cent in London and 9.3 per cent in the North East to 11.4 per cent in the East Midlands.

However, at a local level the gap in 2009 was much wider, ranging from 20 per cent in Westminster and 14 per cent in Blackpool to Kensington and Chelsea at the other end - the only authority where boys did better than girls - and North Somerset where the difference was just 4.5 per cent.

More interestingly, why did boys do so badly in Nottingham? Only 46 per cent recorded the expected progress compared with their neighbours down the road in Derby, where more than 57 per cent of boys performed as expected and the gap between them and the girls was 9.4 per cent compared with 14 per cent in Nottingham.

In Poole and Bournemouth, both authorities with selective secondary systems, the gap between the sexes was still 15.3 per cent and 8.9 per cent respectively, so something seemingly isn't working here either.

Many London authorities have witnessed significant progress over the past four years. This may be due to more staffing stability. However, this alone cannot explain the differences, otherwise many northern authorities would be expected to perform better than they do, especially for boys. It may be that job prospects, or the lack of them, play a part in this age group.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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