New evidence of 'gender gap' in schools
Press release issued: 20 August 2003
Girls continue to outperform boys in the 14-16 age group in English schools, whatever their ability and whatever type of school they attend, according to new research from Bristol University.
Girls continue to outperform boys in the 14-16 age group in English schools, whatever their ability and whatever type of school they attend, according to new research from Bristol University's Leverhulme Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO).
The report by Professor Simon Burgess, Brendon McConnell, Professor Carol Propper and Dr Deborah Wilson finds that:
- The gender gap exists in all types of schools and for pupils of all abilities.
- The gender gap is outweighed by differences in performance by pupils of differing ability and social background.
The researchers studied boys and girls aged 16 in all English state-maintained secondary schools in 2001 - a total of more than half a million pupils in more than 3,000 schools.
The striking result from the research is the sheer consistency of the age 14-16 gender gap. It exists across the distribution of both attainment (the level of performance at GCSE) and ability (as measured by performance at age 14). It also exits with regard to both raw GCSE scores and the gain in attainment between the ages of 14 and 16 (‘value-added’).
What’s more, the gender gap is not related to whether the school performs well or poorly in the school league tables, or whether it is ‘effective’ or ‘ineffective’ in terms of the progress made by their pupils between the ages of 14 and 16.
Nor is it affected by a wide range of other observable features of schools, such as admissions policy, religious denomination, funding status, size and ethnic mix.
The gender gap is driven by girls outperforming boys in English. In maths and science, the performance of girls and boys is the same.
Thus, the generality of the gender gap suggests that its source is not within-school practice. This in turn means that policy directed at improving such practice may be misplaced.
The gender gap is outweighed by differences in performance by pupils of differing ability and social background.
Both the ‘ability gap’ and the ‘poverty gap’ are greater than the gender gap. In other words, ability (as measured by performance at age 14) and poverty (as measured by eligibility for free school meals) have a greater impact on GCSE outcomes than gender.
A focus on the reasons behind these performance differentials could lead to better results in terms of improvements in both boys’ and girls’ educational attainment.
‘Girls Rock, Boys Roll: An Analysis of the Age 14-16 Gender Gap in English Schools’ by Simon Burgess, Brendon McConnell, Carol Propper and Deborah Wilson, CMPO Discussion Paper No. 03/084, is published on 20 August 2003.