Gender gap across stages of education (2013 data)

One of the first Big Numbers we created almost a year ago looked at the attainment of boys and girls across key stages for the 2012 results. Amongst our findings were increasing gaps from Key Stage 2 (KS2) to Key Stage 4 (KS4) for girls outperforming boys, but also that there were a higher percentage of 16-24 females who were NEETs (not in Education, Employment or Training) compared to males, and this gap widened when looking at 18-24 year olds. The validated 2013 results data for these measures were released over the past months, so the current blog revisits this analysis.

Changes in the headline measures

Before analysing the 2013 data, two of the measures that we examined in 2012 have now changed for 2013. The headline threshold measure at KS2 measure looked at the percentage of pupils achieving Level 4 or higher in English and maths, where English was made up of reading and writing. For 2013, the measure is now maths, reading and writing, meaning the emphasis is now split evenly between the three subjects, rather than half maths and half English (which was then split evenly between reading and writing).

The headline measures for Key Stage 5 (KS5) are now also reported differently; they are no longer based on all students at the end of KS5 but are given separately for A level, academic and vocational students. The measure we used in 2012 gave the proportion of students achieving 3+ A levels at A*-E out of all students at the end of KS5 while the 2013 A levels measure includes students achieving 3+ A levels at A*-E out of all A level students. To give you a complete overview, we include both measures for end of KS5 students, along with the new measure for A level students for 2013.

Data analysis

At KS2, the measure now reflects a higher weighting on reading and writing than the 2012 measure, so we see an overall decrease in performance as writing has often had the lowest attainment rate. We also see a 7% gap between females and males, which is up 2% from the gap in 2012 when 77% of boys achieved the threshold measure compared to 82% of girls.

The gap increased slightly for the KS4 measure between 2012 and 2013. A higher percentage of both boys and girls achieved 5+ A*-C GCSEs including English and maths in 2013; 55.6% of boys and 65.7% of girls. The gap between girls and boys widened in 2013 from 9.4% to 10.1%, as the percentage of girls achieving increased by 2.1%, compared to 1.4% for boys.

The gap for the KS5 measure remained unchanged at 7% when looking at all students at the end of KS5, with less girls and boys attaining 3+ A levels in 2013. When we look at the proportion of A level students achieving 3+ A levels in 2013, the gap is 5%. This clearly shows that the gender gap is smaller among A level students compared to all end of KS5 students.

The gap for NEETs decreased in 2013 due to the increase in the percentage of boys classified as NEETs from 15.6% to 16.7%; there was a decrease in the percentage of NEETs girls, from 18.9% to 18.7%, meaning the gap between girls and boys decreased to 2% from 3.3% in 2012.

The gender gap for university applications (for 18-year olds in the UK in 2012 and 2013) remained the same at 10%, with around 30% of boys and 40% of girls applying.

Our analysis shows a small increase in the gender gap between 2012 and 2013 across most key stages. Girls outperform boys in each measure, as well as outnumbering boys in university applications. On the other hand, a higher percentage of 16-24-year old girls are classified NEETs.

Does the gender gap present a problem in your institution? With closing the Pupil Premium gap becoming a priority, is closing the gender gap still relevant? How do you expect the gender gap, its size and importance, to change in the 2013/14 academic year? Explore our Big Numbers and join us on Twitter, on our Post-16 Learning Forum or LinkedIn group to discuss this topic!