Girls take more top grades for first time

18th August 2000 at 01:00
Heads attack 'laddish culture that despises learning' as gender gap continues to widen. Sarah Cassidy reports.

GIRLS have stormed one of the last remaining bastions of male exam supremacy by winning more A-level A grades than boys for the first time this year.

Female students have steadily widened the gap in average A-level scores over the past decade but men had retained the upper hand when it came to top grades.

But this summer, 18.1 per cent of female A-level candidates have been awarded top grades, compared to 17.5 per cent of boys.

While male A-level performance remained roughly constant, girls' achievements improved on last year and they outstripped the boys across the board. Most entries were from female candidates, 54 per cent compared to 46 per cent male.

This year was the first time the Joint Council for General Qualifications - the umbrella body for exam boards - has published the results by gender although it provided a provisional comparative figure for 1999.

The 18.1 per cent of girls awarded A grades was up from 17.4 per cent last year. The figure for boys of 17.5 per cent was the same as last year. Girls were also awarded more Bs and Cs, 19.9 and 21.8 per cent respectivel, compared to 18.2 and 20.6 per cent of boys.

Male students were awarded more lower passes: 18.7 per cent getting Ds and 13.1 per cent Es, compared to 18.3 and 12 per cent of their female peers.

More than three times as many male as female students sat computing and physics A-levels. Meanwhile girls outnumbered boys by the same proportion in psychology, sociology and religious studies.

Boys were more likely to get top grades in French and Spanish. But there were far fewer male entrants: 5,224 in French compared to 12,997 girls. This suggests that only the strongest male linguists take these courses.

Similarly, a higher proportion of girls got top grades in maths and physics although the candidates were overwhelmingly male.

John Dunford, General Secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "One possible explanation is that girls are better suited to modular courses. As these have increased so girls' performance has improved."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "The growing gap between girls and boys is worrying. A laddish culture, that despises academic achievement and is tolerated by far too many parents, must be changed."

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