Girls forge further ahead

THEY OUTPERFORM male classmates in maths and science and their GCSE scores are 10% better

the gender gap is widening into a chasm, a new report has found, with girls forging ahead in achievement at all levels of education.

The findings paint a picture of a nation divided: high-flying girls are achieving high grades and boys are increasingly likely to fall into crime and poor behaviour.

Boys are more likely to commit crimes, suffer physical abuse and account for 70 per cent of special educational needs pupils, while girls are pulling ahead in traditionally male-dominated subjects. Boys also account for 80 per cent of permanent exclusions.

Sue Palmer, who is writing a book on the gender divide, said: "The gap starts extraordinarily early and that is part of the problem. School is more favourable to girls, whereas boys are influenced by a masculine drop-out culture. They think education is not for them."

Girls now outperform boys by an average of 10 percentage points at GCSE, even beating them in so-called male subjects such as maths and double science. Meanwhile, white, working-class boys have become the second-lowest performing group behind travellers less than a quarter gain five good GCSEs compared to a national average of more than half.

John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, called for better-targeted funding for white, working class boys. "Ethnic minority achievement grants should cover all groups at the bottom of the league tables," he said.

The debate continues on the reasons for this disparity. Some have blamed an absence of male teachers (less than a quarter of staff are men), a female friendly curriculum and girls' natural studiousness, but research is inconclusive.

Andy Yarrow, head of Hornsey school for girls in north London, said: "The girls I see do not themselves as at a disadvantage in education and the workplace, and cannot understand why it would be an issue," he said. "They have extremely high expectations."

Dr Dylan William, of London university's Institute of Education, said girls had a better attitude to success. "They believe it is within their control, whereas boys attribute it to pure brilliance. Therefore they are more likely to work harder and succeed," he said.

Full reports, pages 4-5

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