GCSE pass levels for boys 'seven years behind girls'
Boys are lagging seven years behind girls in GCSE results, figures showed today.
Schools minister Jim Knight said it was a "deep frustration" that the gap in performance had hardly been narrowed at all.
While exam results for both sexes had continued to improve, boys' success rates had only this year reached the level achieved by girls in 1999.
Mr Knight was publishing the latest GCSE statistics, which showed the percentage of 15-year-olds achieving five or more A to C grades had risen by 1.8 per cent.
The increase, from 56.3 per cent to 58.1 per cent, was the biggest since 1997.
It meant that over 350,000 more young people had gained five good GCSEs since 1997 thanks to improvements in schools, the Government said.
But the annual increase was only 0.8 per cent when taking into account English and maths.
The figures showed that around 350,000 were still leaving school every year without having good results in both of those basic subjects.
Next January, league tables will for the first time show how schools are performing on GCSE results when English and maths are taken into account.
The gap between boys and girls in GCSEs has remained at around 10 per cent since 1997 and in the last year has only narrowed by 0.1 per cent, to 9.9 per cent.
Mr Knight said: "In all honesty we would say that things remain pretty much the same and that is a persistent problem."
The Government plans to address the gap with "personalised learning" programmes and special diplomas which they hope will encourage boys.
But Mr Knight acknowledged "It is a deep frustration. Boys are now getting to where girls were in 1999. That really is a persistent challenge for us.
"Why is that? If we knew the answer to that then maybe it wouldn't exist. But I think it is attached to the extent to which we are motivating boys through adolescence."
The proportion of 15-year-old boys achieving five good GCSEs this year was 53.3 per cent, compared to 63.2 per cent for girls.
Both sexes have been steadily improving at about the same rate but girls achieved 53.4 per cent success back in 1999 and have continued to be ahead.
A review was currently being carried out on how to gear teaching and learning more towards the individual needs of pupils, Mr Knight said.
The key to improvement was "making school something that boys want to turn up to more often".
Today's figures also showed an increase in pupils studying science and fewer lower attaining schools, while schools with high numbers of disadvantaged pupils had achieved the highest rises in proportions of pupils achieving five good GCSEs.
Mr Knight said: "I would like to congratulate school staff, pupils and parents on these excellent results which show improvements across the board.
"The last few weeks have seen a range of pessimists criticise our schools and teachers, describing even quickly improving schools as failing.
"In actual fact, the results today show that fewer schools are failing their pupils with a record proportion of children leaving with five good passes including English and maths and more and more children hitting the highest grades.
"But more needs to be done. One child not reaching their full potential in one school is one too many. However, it is important that we concentrate on the facts and not the scaremongering."