Girls are continuing to outperform boys at GCSE, but the gap is closing in some unexpected places.
Looking just at data for 16-year-olds in England, this year 5.4 per cent of all grades handed out to girls were the coveted grade 9, compared to 3.9 per cent for boys.
And while nearly three quarters of grades for girls were a pass at level 4 or above (74.3 per cent), only two thirds of grades for boys were the same.
Schools Week has taken a deeper dive to see where the gap is narrowing – and where it is growing.
Gender gap slowly closing in computing
There has been a rise in the number of girls taking computing this year, growing by 15 per cent in England alone and 14 per cent across the UK. Despite this, significantly fewer girls still take the subject – making up just over a fifth of entries.
However, girls have continued to outperform boys. This year, 4.8 per cent of grades awarded to girls were a grade 9, down slightly from 4.9 per cent last year. This was still much higher than the 3.6 per cent achieved by boys (although it’s a rise on 3.4 per cent last year).
Almost a quarter (24.6 per cent) of the grades received by girls were a 7 or above, compared to 20.5 for boys, while two thirds of girls achieved a pass at grade 4 or better compared to 61.5 per cent of boys.
Jill Duffy, chief executive at OCR, said exam boards had “done quite a lot to encourage girls to look a lot at computer science”.
“That’s partly about making them see the relevance of that to real life, and the importance of computer science to real life and also to their future careers.”
Boys catching up to girls in chemistry
The gap between girls’ and boys’ attainment in chemistry has narrowed even further, with 13.1 per cent of entries by girls awarded a grade 9 (a 0.2 percentage point rise on last year) compared to 12.9 per cent for boys (a 0.5 percentage points rise from last year) – narrowing the attainment gap to just 0.2 percentage points. Forty-three per cent of grades for boys are now a 7 or above, compared to 45.2 per cent for girls, while 89.8 per cent of grades for boys were a 4 or higher, compared to 91 per cent for girls.
Girls are continuing to do better than boys in biology, with 13.9 per cent of girls achieving a grade 9, compared to 11.5 per cent of boys. It means the attainment gap has narrowed by 0.1 percentage point to 2.4 percentage points. Results at a level 7 or above made up 45.7 per cent of entries for girls and 41 per cent for boys, while 91.7 per cent of girls passed with a 4 or above compared to 89.6 per cent for boys.
However, boys still have the upper hand in physics. Some 14.3 per cent of boy entries got a grade 9, compared to 10.7 per cent for girls – a 3.6 percentage point gap. The gap widens at grade 7s and above to 4.1 percentage points in favour of boys.
Girls are catching up to boys in maths
Boys are still outperforming girls in maths but it seems that their progress may have stalled slightly. This year, 19.9 per cent girl entries got a grade 7 or above, up from 19.1 per cent last year (a rise of 0.8 percentage points). However, for boys, the proportion remained exactly the same – 20.9 per cent – closing the attainment gap to just 1 percentage point.
A higher proportion of girls’ maths results were also passes, with 72 per cent achieving a grade 4 or above compared to 70.9 per cent for boys. But boys still did better when it came to the very top results, with 4.3 per cent of grade 9s, compared to 3.1 per cent for girls.
Boys have done better in English literature this year, but are still being outperformed by girls. This year, 5.1 per cent of girl entries were a 9, compared to 2.2 per cent for boys. More boys achieved 7 and above this year (up 0.7 percentage points to 14.8 per cent), but this is still way behind girls, with 26.7 per cent of grades a 7 or above.
Girls are also still ahead in English language. This year, 22.6 per cent of girls got a grade 7 or above, compared to just 12.4 per cent for boys – although the attainment gap has narrowed every so slighlty by 0.1 percentage point to 10.2. Just 62.9 per cent of grades for boys were a grade 4 or above, compared to 78.2 per cent for girls.
It’s a mixed picture for languages
Girls have seen a slump in their results in Spanish but are still pulling away in French, while boys have seen improvements in German.
The results show there were almost 1,500 fewer entries for GCSE German this year, with almost 1,000 fewer girls choosing the subject. Boys improved this year, with 4.1 per cent of grades being awarded at grade 9, compared to 3.8 per cent last year, while 5.4 per cent of girls achieved the same, up from 5.3 per cent last year. Boys also saw strong improvements in the grades awarded at 7 or above, which rose from 19 to 19.7 per cent, while girls had a smaller increase from 25.5 to 26 per cent.
Spanish is growing in popularity, but girls saw a decline in their results. Entries at grade 4 or above for girls stood at 74.3 per cent, down from 74.9 per cent last year, while for boys it rose to 63.4 per cent, up from 62.9 per cent. That means the attainment gap has narrowed massively from 2 percentage points to 10.9. At grades at 7 or above, boys remained static on 21.2 per cent, but girls dropped from 30 per cent to 29.1 per cent.
In French, boys saw a small decline in their results. This year, 63 per cent of grades for boys were at grade 4 or above, compared to 63.2 per cent last year, while girls saw an increase from 73.7 to 74 per cent. At grade 9, girls pulled even further away from the boys, with 5.2 per cent of all results coming in at the top grade, up from 4.9 per cent last year, while boys saw a fall from 3.7 per cent to 3.5 per cent. However, the proportion of results for boys at grade 7 or above grew, from 18.6 per cent to 18.8 per cent, while girls saw a smaller increase from 25.8 to 25.9 per cent.