This article will explore whether gender has an impact in performance in the Year 6 National Assessments and if this consequently affects GCSEs.
SATs results have been analysed year after year and consistently girls outperform boys overall in reading, writing and maths according to a report from the Department of Education (Gov.uk, 2016) released at the end of December 2016.
Table 1 ‘Attainment by subject and gender, England, 2016 (all schools)’ (Gov.uk 2016, p. 16).
In 2016, 57% of girls met the expected standard in reading, writing and maths whereas only 50% of boys performed at this level. As a result, there is an 8% gap of between the genders meeting the expected target. In previous years the gap was smaller, averaging at a 6% gap overall between girls and boys in 2014 and 2015.
If we look at individual subject areas, a greater percentage of girls achieve the expected standard in all subjects except maths. In 2016 both 70% of boys and girls achieved the expected standard but 3% more of these boys were achieving a higher score than girls. This shows that both boys and girls have similar maths ability aged 11 but more boys are working at a higher level overall than girls.
The gap between the genders is greatest in writing at 13%. As a result, boys typically find English more challenging when they begin Secondary schools than girls and this can impact their written skills later on in KS3 and KS4. If not addressed, this gender gap continues to grow through Secondary School and research (Webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk, 2007) shows that in GCSE’s, the gender gap is larger in English and smaller in Maths, with, on average, girls performing better than boys. In association with English skills, girls also typically perform better in the Humanities, the Arts and Languages. Data collected by the House of Commons (2016) shows that in 2011, the gap was 7.3% (54.6% boys and 61.9% girls) in those achieving 5+ grades A*-C, including English and Maths, in state-funded schools. In 2013, the gender gap increased to 10% difference (55.7% boys and 65.7% girls). The new GCSE structure is aimed to introduce to methodology to combat this even so, the gap remained broadly consistent in 2015 at 9.3%.
Regarding Maths, there is a shift in KS3 and KS4 that has only occurred since the 1990s (House of Commons, 2016). Prior to 1991, boys typically performed better than girls by 4% in Maths but since then, girls have had an advantage of 1-2% more than boys. The overall impact of gender means that girls have a greater likelihood than boys to gain an A* grade at GCSE and boys are a little more likely to gain a G grade at GCSE or to gain no GCSEs at all. These patterns are similar to those shown in the KS2 national assessments.
In terms of progress with KS2 curriculum knowledge, the data (table below) from the KS2 national assessments in ‘Progress scores by gender England, 2016 (mainstream schools)’ show that girls have also shown more progress than boys in reading and writing whilst boys demonstrate more progress than girls in mathematics during Primary School. The trends in mathematics progress in recent years at KS3/4 have now changed and girls demonstrate greater progress.
Table 1 ‘Progress scores by gender England, 2016 (mainstream schools)’ (Gov.uk 2016, p. 17).
In summary, from this report more girls than boys typically achieve the expected standard in KS2 SATs and achieve a high score in all subjects except from mathematics. This trend continues through KS3 and KS4, impacting upon other humanities subjects which require written skills. Regarding Maths, boys used to perform better than girls in GCSE’s before 1991 but since then girls’ mathematical abilities improve and outperform boys by the end of KS4.
House of Commons (2016). Educational performance of boys. London: House of Commons Library, p.2.
Gov.uk. (2016). Statistics: key stage 2 – GOV.UK. [online] Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statistics-key-stage-2 [Accessed 22 Mar. 2018].
Webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk. (2007). Gender and education: the evidence on pupils in England. [online] Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20090108131527/http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/research/data/uploadfiles/RTP01-07.pdf [Accessed 22 Mar. 2018].