Olympian trial of the gender gap

27th August 2004 at 01:00
Though it barely seems credible, Britain's education politicians do have a lot in common with Olympic athletes. For both, the smallest of margins separate success and failure. Last week the Welsh Assembly welcomed the news that the A-level pass rate had edged up by 0.1 per cent - an ideal outcome, as it was not enough to indicate grade inflation and yet demonstrated progress. This week we learn that the GCSE pass rate in Wales has increased by 0.2 per cent, whereas England's tally has remained static.

We should not take pride in besting the English (we can save that for the rugby). But Welsh teachers should derive some quiet satisfaction from these - mostly positive - statistics. They do not quite prove, as Jane Davidson has claimed, that "Wales is a Learning Country where all pupils...

have the opportunity to give their best and achieve their best." We have not reached that nirvana yet. But the Assembly's anti-truancy measures and the introduction of education maintenance allowances for post-16 students will help more teenagers to fulfil their potential.

It is, however, disturbing to be told that not only are girls getting more GCSEs than boys - we already knew that - they are also far more likely to gain an A or A* (almost 21 per cent of girls' entries, but only 14 per cent of boys' achieve these grades). It is years since the gender gap was identified but the education service still seems powerless to close it.

The declining number of French and German GCSE candidates is also disappointing because CILT Cymru, the languages centre, has made tremendous efforts to stem the haemorrhage. This is not a Wales-only problem, of course. Scots and English teenagers are reluctant linguists, too - but that will be little comfort to business people who are keen to build stronger trading ties with Europe. They know the truth of the old saying: "You can buy in English but if you want to sell, you need to speak your customer's language."

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, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today