Gender still affects the educational performance of school pupils in a variety of ways says a new report, 'The Gender Divide' published today, and the debate on why this occurs is as lively as ever. Examples of gender performance include:
- Girls achieve better than boys in English from the age of seven
- Girls are more successful than boys at every level in GCSE
- Boys gain very low or very high point scores at A-level and Advanced Supplementary level more often than girls
- Post-16 girls turn away from maths and science, subjects which could lead them to careers in such fields as engineering and technology
- Schools are less likely to be able to deal with the behavioural problems of boys: they are four times as likely to be excluded from school - frequently because of aggressive behaviour.
- Girls tend to be more conscientious in doing their homework at primary school
- Girls and boys often have different approaches to planning and organising their work. Girls are more likely to bring the correct equipment to lessons and to respond to teachers' comments about their work.
"The Gender Divide: Performance differences between boys and girls at school', has been produced jointly by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) and the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).
It is intended as a discussion document and draws on evidence gained from HMI surveys, OFSTED school inspections and EOC casework.
Among other things, it looks at standards of achievement, the curriculum, personal and social development and what constitutes an effective school.
In each of these areas the report suggests what schools can do to improve their performance as well as highlighting a number of issues for discussion by school management, LEAs and inspectors.
Some schools demonstrate very good practice in preparing girls and boys equally for the challenges and opportunities presented by the changing world of work but others have a considerable way to go.
The report asks if the frequent failure of secondary schools to achieve the same success with boys as they do with girls is due to a lack of rapport and suggests the development of a clear policy covering all aspects of the school's work.
Single sex versus mixed
It is not yet possible to say which are the more successful: mixed or single-sex schools. There are too many variables affecting the comparisons, and further research and inspection evidence will be needed before secure conclusions can be drawn. There are relatively few single-sex schools and they often have distinctive features: for instance, a high proportion are selective.
The report throws open to debate whether there are ways of replicating in mixed schools some of the identifiable benefits of single-sex education.
Commenting on the report, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools Chris Woodhead said: "This document will, we hope, add some useful information and ask some important questions in the continuing debate about the gender factor in educational achievement. Responses from all those with an interest in this subject will be most welcome. OFSTED will continue this work in several ways including a forthcoming publication on the achievement of young people from ethnic minorities and a review of the key features of recent research into education and gender."
Welcoming the report, Kamlesh Bahl, Chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities Commission said: "The EOC also intends to build on this work in consultation with national policy makers and local practitioners. The Commission has a long standing commitment to improve gender equality in education and training in all sectors and particularly in schools, colleges, teacher training and in universities. This report is another positive step in that direction."
Notes to editors:
'The Gender Divide: Performance differences between boys and girls at school' (ISBN 0-11-350082-3) is available from HMSO, price £7.95.
OFSTED is a non-ministerial government department established under the Education (Schools) Act 1992 to take responsibility for the inspection of all schools in England. Its staff include HMI, who draw on inspection evidence to report on good practice in schools and on a wide range of other educational issues.