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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 August, 2004, 23:28 GMT 00:28 UK
Boys 'fighting back' in A-levels
Boys are narrowing the gender gap at A-levels
Boys are "fighting back" at A-levels, with their results improving more rapidly than girls.

There has been concern at the "gender gap" in school performance - with boys failing to keep up with the academic achievements of girls.

But this year's A-level results show that the gap is narrowing.

Head teachers' leader, David Hart, says this reflects the efforts made by secondary schools to find ways to raise boys' attainment.

"The results highlight a fight back by the boys at A and AS-level. The girls have found it relatively harder to improve their grades in 2004," said Ellie Johnson Searle, director of the Joint Council for Qualifications.

Law students

Examiners pointed to the success of boys in a number of subjects - including maths, law and psychology.

This is the first evidence, certainly at A-level, that boys are beginning to see that it's not particularly clever to under-achieve
David Hart, National Association of Head Teachers

Mr Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said improvements were a result of deliberate strategies in schools designed to help raise standards among boys.

"Some schools are actually separating boys and girls when it comes to teaching," said Mr Hart.

"Others are putting a great deal of effort into making sure that boys' attitudes are turned around at pre-GCSE."

"This is the first evidence, certainly at A-level, that boys are beginning to see that it's not particularly clever to under-achieve. I hope it's the beginning of the end of laddish culture."

Mr Hart said that boys were realising that without good results they would not get to university and would lose out in the jobs market - and that it was no longer an option to be "lazy and complacent".

John Dunford, leader of the Secondary Heads Association, said that "boy-friendly" teaching strategies and equipment such as computers were being used to increase the appeal to male pupils.

The Department for Education has been running projects specifically designed to tackle this gender gap, including the Raising Boys' Achievement Project.

This has involved research in 60 schools to find ways to motivate boys.

The results show the rate of improvement for boys was higher at both the top grade and in terms of overall passes.

But even though the gap has narrowed by 0.2 percentage points, this still means that girls are achieving better results - with 23.7% achieving A grades, compared to 21% for boys.

In terms of overall passes, 95% of boys scored grades A to E, which was lower than the 96.8% achieved by girls.

There were also over 60,000 more A-level exam entries from girls than boys - which feeds into a pattern of more female students going onto university than male ones.

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