Girls now beat boys at A-level

6th August 1999 at 01:00
Sarah Cassidy reports on statistics that reveal the gender gap which opens up at age seven is wider than ever before

GIRLS HAVE overtaken boys for the first time in at A-level, according the latest statistics.

After trailing behind their male classmates since A-levels began in 1951, girls got better average results than boys last summer.

They were also slightly more likely to get A grades at A-level, although boys were still more likely to get a string of top grades. Nearly one in six of boys got three A-grades or more in last year's exams, compared to 15 per cent of girls.

Boys also account for some of the weakest performances. While 4 per cent of girls scored no points at A-level, the figure for boys was more than one in 20.

The new figures, from the Department for Education and Employment, also show girls storming ahead at GCSE with the performance gap between the sexes reaching record levels.

A decade ago 30 per cent of boys got at least five Cs at GCSE compared to 36 per cent of girls. Last summer, the gap had widened to more than 10 percentage points with 51 per cent of girls, but only 41 per cent of boys scoring five good GCSE passes.

Boys are more likely to leave school with no GCSEs and 4 per cent were not even entered for any exams.

Despite boys' success at getting strings of top-grade A-levels, they win far fewer of the coveted A* grades at GCSE. Last summer one in 30 entries from boys was graded A* compared to nearly one in 20 from girls.

A significant gender gap has emerged by the time children are seven. Last year 83 per cent of seven-year-old girls reached the required reading standard, but only 73 per cent of boys.

By 11 the gap has widened to 16 percentage points with only 57 per cent of boys hitting the target attained by 73 per cent of girls.

However, at boys are still beating girls in A-level subjects traditionally seen as a "male" preserve. Boys are more likely to get As in physics, maths, computer studies and economics A-levels and last year they also outperformed girls in modern languages and classical studies.

More girls than boys got As in English and history A-level last summer, although these were subjects where boys once dominated.

Dr Jannette Elwood, of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, said:

"These huge benchmark figures make it seem that girls are surging ahead on every level. However they mask areas where girls do not do as well at A-level despite outperforming boys at GCSE. A-level choices are still very gendered."

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today