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History > 2009 > UK > Education (I)

 

 

 


Boys outdo girls in maths

as GCSE passes reach record high

 

August 27, 2009
From Times Online
Nicola Woolcock
and Joanna Sugden

 

Boys pulled ahead of girls in maths for the first time in 12 years as a record proportion of GCSE entries received good passes this year.


More than two thirds of papers were graded A* to C and top grades were also up, with more than one in five entries marked A* or A, up from 20.7 per cent to 21.6 per cent.


However, performance in English fell slightly for the first time in recent years.


The advance made by boys in maths is widely thought to be because of the abolition of coursework in the subject, and a return to assessment solely by exam.


In recent years girls have done better than boys in almost every subject.


But experts suggested today that boys may catch up in the next few years, as coursework is removed from other subjects.


John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This suggests that next year, when coursework is removed from many other subjects, boys’ achievement will catch up with girls.”


The results of this year’s GCSEs for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, published today, come amid claims that they have outlived their usefulness.


Sir Mike Tomlinson, the former Chief Inspector of Schools, said that the exams for 16-year-olds were complex and expensive to administer.


He told the BBC that the future of the exams would have to be reviewed following the Government’s decision to extend the education leaving age to 18.


“It does raise the question of why we need such a complex terminal examination at that point and if we do need it, what purpose does it serve?


“I think we would need to have some form of assessment of progress at 16, simply to give a clear indication of whether a student was on the right course, was working at the level necessary.


“But I don’t think we need necessarily have a system that is as complex and expensive as at present.”


Rising numbers of independent schools are abandoning the qualification in favour of the tougher International GCSE, which is more like the O level and has no course work.


The number of GCSEs taken fell sharply by 3.5 percentage points, in part because of a smaller number of pupils. However, the fall also indicates that schools are focusing on quality rather than quantity.


In English, 62.7 per cent of entries were awarded at least a C grade, down 0.2 of a percentage point from 62.9 per cent in 2008.


But the proportion of maths entries scoring A* to C rose 0.9 of a percentage point to 57.2 per cent.


Entries in modern languages fell considerably - French was down by 6.6 points and German by 4.2. Spanish was stable. The slump follows the Government’s controversial decision to abolish the requirement for every pupil to take a foreign language beyond the age of 14.


But more are taking science GCSEs in individual subjects than as double award.


Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “I thoroughly condemn attempts, whether from parts of the press or political parties, that seek to undermine for their own purposes the credibility of GCSEs.


“Young people have done their best and the improvements we have seen in recent years are entirely due to their efforts and the hard work of teachers.


"There are of course major issues that still need to be tackled, including the ongoing effects of the mistaken decision to make modern foreign languages optional.”


The reduction in take-up of modern foreign languages, particularly in French and German, was of fundamental concern, she added.


Overall this year more than 67.1 per cent of entries were at grades A* to C, up from 65.7 per cent last summer.


The overall pass rate at A* to G was rose to 98.6 per cent from 98.4 per cent in 2008.


Jim Sinclair, director of the Joint Council for Qualifications, which published the results today, said: “There has been good performance overall across most subjects, including mathematics and languages. It is also reassuring to see increased entry to the separate sciences.


“The core subjects of English, mathematics and science continue to dominate and account for almost half of the full course entry.”


The first results of the new fast-track diploma qualification were disappointing.


At the higher level, designed to be equivalent to seven good GCSEs graded A* to C, none of the 91 students who took the diploma in one year rather than two got an A* or A grade, more than half were awarded a C and more than a quarter failed. About 12,000 students started diploma courses in September 2008.


The diploma qualification is designed to bridge the gap between academic and vocational skills. Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, wants it to replace A levels but universities have concerns that it is not sufficiently rigorous.


The foundation diploma is equivalent to five GCSEs at grades D to G. At higher level it is the same as seven A* to C grades.


The results for the fast-track foundation level diploma - taken by 121 candidates - were slightly more promising than for the higher, with 0.8 per cent achieving an A* and 29.8 per cent an A. Seventy-four foundation level students were graded B and 10 failed.

    Boys outdo girls in maths as GCSE passes reach record high, Ts, 27.8.2009, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/school_league_tables/article6811898.ece