The differential attainment of boys and girls at school: investigating the patterns and their determinants

G. Rees, J. Salisbury, S. Gorard

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Recent research on the differential attainment of boys and girls at school has produced findings in significant contrast to the standard account on which most previous explanations of the differences between boys and girls were based. Put simply, much previous research may have been attempting to explain differences whose nature was incompletely understood. The result, if these new findings are accepted, is that further research is now necessary to discover the potential socio-economic, classroom and individual determinants of these gender gaps. In addition, it is important before such research takes place that the nature of the actual differences between the 'performance' of boys and girls is more clearly understood. This article is intended to be a part of that advance. It details differential attainment by gender for all students in Wales over 6 years and at every level of assessment from Key Stage 1 to A level. There are few significant gender differences in mathematics and the sciences (i.e. the majority of the core subjects). For all other subjects, there are no significant gender differences at the lowest level of any assessment. Otherwise, the gap in attainment between boys and girls rises with every grade or level in an assessment, leading to the conclusion that the problem, if indeed it is a problem, is one mainly facing mid-to high-attainers. Proportionately more girls are attaining high grades and more boys are attaining middle grades than might be expected. Trends over time reveal no great change in this picture at the subject level over 6 years, but in terms of aggregate scores such as government benchmarks, the gap between boys and girls is decreasing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-139
Number of pages14
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2001


  • Educational Research

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