New GCSEs 'could favour boys'

Reformed GCSEs could lead to boys pulling further ahead in maths and closing the gap with girls in English, according to leading academic

Eleanor Busby

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Boys could pull further ahead of their female peers in the new "tougher" maths GCSE, an expert has suggested.

And the gap between girls and boys could narrow in the reformed English GCSE, according to Professor Alan Smithers.

Professor Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, believes the new maths and English GCSEs could favour boys.

In England, teenagers will receive their results on Thursday for the more demanding maths and English GCSEs – which will be graded from 9 to 1, rather than A* to G. 

Last year, boys had a slight lead of 0.5 percentage points over girls at A* to C in maths. Meanwhile, girls were 15.9 percentage points ahead of their male peers in English.

End-of-year exams 'benefit boys'

But Professor Smithers thinks the downgrading of coursework and a shift towards end-of-year exams could benefit boys. 

He said: "In maths, girls were once ahead, but were overtaken by the boys in 2009, since when boys have maintained a narrow lead.

"The more demanding content and end-of-course examination should see that gap widen."

Professor Smithers added: "Girls regularly have been massively ahead in English at A*-C by between 13 and 16 percentage points.

"It is likely that the switch to 80 per cent end-of-course examination will dent this lead."

Ahead of A-level results day last week, Professor Smithers predicted that boys could close the A-level gender gap, rivalling girls for the top grades. 

And his prediction came true. Boys actually received more A* and A grades at A level than their female peers. 

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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