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Achievement Levels

Volume 567: debated on Monday 9 September 2013

Girls outperform boys at key stage and at GCSE by about 10%, except in the subject of mathematics, where boys slightly outperform girls. As everybody is aware, that is the subject with the highest earnings premium. Girls are also less likely to study the high-value subjects of physics, maths and chemistry at A-level.

Our biggest educational problem is the long tail of underachieving boys in the system. What measurable progress, compared with international standards, have we made with this very stubborn problem?

Ultimately, schools are best placed to improve the attainment of low-performing students. From 2012, we have given schools extra information about the gap in performance between boys and girls so that they can address it. The introduction of the phonics check at age six means that we can identify boys, in particular, who are struggling with reading and give them extra help. The introduction of more focus on arithmetic in primary schools, with times tables and better testing, means that we can make sure that girls get up to the standard they need to be at before they reach secondary school.

The Children’s Commissioner has shown that black Caribbean boys are three times more likely than white pupils to be excluded from school. What is the Minister doing to understand the reasons for that disparity in school exclusions and to make sure that no injustice or unfairness is seriously impacting on the performance of those boys?

As I said in my previous answer, it is up to schools and teachers to identify underperforming students and groups. The important thing is that we focus on this as early as possible. That is why we are focusing on improving quality in early-years education in order to make sure that students get the basics in terms of vocabulary and counting, which will lead to better performance later on.