Boys to narrow A-level gender gap after major reforms, expert claims
Boys could close the A-level gender gap with girls at top grades this summer, an expert has suggested.
Major reforms to the qualifications could benefit male sixth-formers, according to Professor Alan Smithers.
Official figures show that there was just a 0.3 percentage point gap last year between the proportion of boys and girls' A-level entries awarded an A* or A grade.
Prof Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, suggested that changes to the qualifications, particularly the move away from modular courses could mean that this gap closes further.
He told the Press Association that major reforms to A-levels back in 2000 - which saw a swing towards pupils sitting exams throughout their two-year courses - had benefited girls. Now that is being reversed under a recent exams overhaul, it may advantage boys.
"Curriculum 2000 put all the A-levels on a modular basis, and in 2002, when the first grades were awarded, girls leaped ahead at A* to C and at the A grade," Prof Smithers said.
"At the A grade, the gap increased from 0.8 to 2.6 percentage points and at A to C from 3.6 to 6.8 percentage points".
"The change over to modular brought about a big difference in the relative performance of girls and boys."
Experts have previously suggested that girls tend to respond to modular courses, as they can apply themselves throughout the course, working towards specific modules or coursework, whereas boys are more likely to revise in the weeks before a final exam.
"I think cutting to the chase, what happened when A-levels changed from end of course to modular, which led to a big gap opening in favour of girls, suggests that the reversion to end of course examinations will lead to a narrowing of the gap."
This year, the first A-level grades will be given in 13 subjects which have been reformed - art and design, biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, English language, English language and literature, English literature, history, physics, psychology and sociology.
The extent to which the gap closes depends on how much impact those 13 subjects have, Prof Smithers said.
Last year, 26% of UK girls' A-level entries scored at least an A grade, compared with 25.7% of UK boys' entries.
In 2011, there was a 1.5 percentage point gap, with 27.7% of girls' entries awarded A*-A, compared to 26.2% of boys'.
Teenagers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland receive their A-level results next week.