There is another report out showing that in spite of various measures being taken boys still lag behind girls in terms of GCSE results. And of course the government is "deeply frustrated". What I want to know is why all these over-achieving girls are still on the receiving end of a massive pay gap and hold virtually none of the top jobs in this country (see dozens of other Cru-blog articles for details). When girls are behind boys in some measure the reaction is "Ah, exactly, that's why women should be barred from the top jobs, see?" in the reverse case scenario it's "We are failing our men and improvements must be made".
The truth is (if you ask me) that girls are better at following instructions and getting on with working hard on things even when those things are easy, boring and repetitive. And that is probably mainly a nurture thing - being told to sit still, be quiet, smile and not make a fuss. It could have some genetic basis too - women often have better endurance than men and men often have better burst strength than women - and that might apply to mental work too. School is boring. Parents don't teach kids stuff at home like they used to and schools and curriculum designers are so paranoid about getting (a) everything covered in case they've missed something and (b) the best results possible, so that schools who shop around for easy exams will choose them that school is not challenging for a majority of kids. Now there are two reactions to that - buckle down and get on with it, do the 47-page project on how-to-light-a-bunsen-burner (I genuinely was marked on this when I did GCSE combined sciences many years ago), or refuse, get bored, muck about, etc. And coursework is always about who did the most work rather than who got to the right answer quickest, which rewards those used to doing as they're told. I had a teacher at school who used to weigh coursework projects on a set of scales and predict the grades they would get - he was never wrong! That structure favours hard-working girls. It just does, and perhaps to some extent rightly so since in most workplaces those are the skills that are of greatest importance.
Girls should be commended on having done so well in GCSEs and having worked so hard. All children should be given the option if taking extension work. I'd like to see all educational areas offering ealry GCSEs in a small number of subjects for those who wish to take them - studying at a government-sponsored after-school or weekend club and then being allowed to sit out the corresponding lessons in school in the library or other quiet room.